Economic history

Juan Felipe Riaño, Felipe Valencia Caicedo, 29 November 2020

Studies of the short-term impact that armed conflicts have on economic development abound, but there is little consensus about their long-term legacy. This column evaluates the enduring effects of the US government’s ‘Secret War’ in Laos, waged from 1964 to 1975. As a result of the intense bombing campaign, Laos is now severely contaminated with unexploded ordnance, which has impaired Laotians’ health, education, and migration choices. These factors have in turn hindered the structural transformation and economic growth of the country, which remains one of the world’s poorest. ro come

Joshua Hausman, Paul W. Rhode, Johannes Wieland, 29 November 2020

Like the current economic crisis in the US, the Great Depression led to large redistributions of income among sectors and households. Perhaps most important, falling farm product prices shifted income away from farmers. This column argues that this redistribution explains between 10% and 30% of the US output decline in 1930. Recovery from the Great Depression began in 1933 in part because farm product prices rose, reversing this redistribution. 

Steven Poelhekke, 27 November 2020

Africa's roads were originally built so that colonial powers could extract its natural wealth. What has happened since then? Steven Poelhekke of the University of Auckland examines the maps with Tim Phillips.

Sascha O. Becker, Yuan Hsiao, Steven Pfaff, Jared Rubin, 27 November 2020

The Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther, was one of the most transformative periods of European (if not world) history in the second millennium. How did this movement succeed? This column offers a theory that combines relational diffusion (via Luther’s network ties) with spatial diffusion (via trade routes in the Holy Roman Empire), and substantiates this theory using data on Luther’s letters, travels, and students. Luther’s network alone does not explain the success of the Reformation, but his network in combination with the pre-existing ties created by trade routes explains much of its success.

Leandro de la Escosura, Joan R. Rosés, 21 November 2020

The current productivity slowdown in advanced economies has triggered a lively debate about its causes and remedies. This column takes a long-run perspective to study drivers of productivity expansion and stagnation in Spain during the last 170 years. It finds that the productivity slowdown coincided with resource reallocation towards sectors attracting less innovation, with low investment in intangibles and low investment-specific technical change. Obstacles to competition in product and factor markets, subsidies, and cronyism further contributed to capital misallocation, negatively affecting productivity growth.

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