Economic history

David de la Croix, Mara Vitale, 15 June 2022

Academia has seen remarkable progress in gender equality over the last 50 years, but has yet to achieve parity – particularly in economics and STEM disciplines. This column documents the participation of women in European academia from the first universities to the eve of the Industrial Revolution, with unexpected results. Of the 108 women who taught at universities or belonged to academies, most were in Catholic southern Europe, challenging the idea that Protestantism was more liberal than Catholicism, at least where the participation of women in upper-tail human capital was concerned.

Ellen Munroe, Anastasiia Nosach, Juan Felipe Riaño, Ana Tur-Prats, Felipe Valencia Caicedo, 08 June 2022

The war in Ukraine is having immediate and stark humanitarian and economic impacts, yet its long-term consequences are challenging to predict. This column revisits the evidence on the long-term impact of conflict and presents preliminary evidence for the continued invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The after-effects of bombing campaigns and those of violence against civilians can be substantial and are typically, although not exclusively, damaging. The authors find a strong positive correlation between the presence of ethnic Russians historically and current conflict, as well as a negative relationship between modern conflict and Holodomor famine deaths, both within Ukraine.

Giampaolo Lecce, Laura Ogliari, Tommaso Orlando, 05 June 2022

Successful state formation processes are a crucial element for the development of well-functioning institutions. However, there are many instances of state building encountering resistance by local communities. This column uses Italian unification as a historical case study to investigate how cultural proximity to the new ruler may promote successful state building. The authors find that communities culturally closer to the new ruler have a lower propensity to rebel, and discuss two possible cultural mechanisms: social identification with the new ruler, and ‘goodness of fit’ of the new institutions with local values.

Debin Ma, Kaixiang Peng, 21 May 2022

A pessimistic view of Chinese agriculture development is based on a Malthusian trap, characterised by diminishing returns to agriculture and a declining land-labour ratio. This column presents stylised empirical facts of 19th and 20th century Chinese agriculture, focusing on the seasonality of labour demand and the resulting rise of sideline employment, to challenge the implications of this view. The reallocation of labour across idle seasons facilitated commercialisation and higher population densities, yet it was industrialisation, occurring outside the agriculture sector, which enabled modernisation. 

Alexander Donges, Jean-Marie Meier, Rui Silva, 20 May 2022

A large part of the world operates under oligarchic and authoritarian regimes, where access to economic opportunities is not offered to all citizens. This column discusses the impact of such ‘extractive institutions’ in stifling innovation and future economic growth. Using novel hand-collected data, it documents that ‘inclusive institutions’, which promote equal access to economic opportunities, are a first-order determinant of innovation. Geographical regions with more inclusive institutions are able to produce more than twice as much innovation (proxied with patents per capita) as regions with worse institutions.

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