Alex Klein, Sheilagh Ogilvie, 14 January 2018

A famous hypothesis posits that serfdom was caused by factor endowments, specifically high land-labour ratios. Historical evidence seems to refute this idea, but with substantial identification problems. This column uses microdata for more than 11,000 Bohemian villages in the year 1757 to control for other potential influences on serfdom. The results support the factor endowments hypothesis, with higher land-labour ratios intensifying serfdom, suggesting that institutions are partially shaped by economic fundamentals.

Andrei Markevich, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 28 February 2015

There is a debate among economists about the effects of serfdom on economic development. This column sheds light on this debate using novel dataset from 19th-century Russia. The findings indicate that serfdom was a crucial factor causing economic slowdown. The abolishment of serfdom was followed by a sharp increase in agricultural productivity, the living standards of peasants, and industrial development. 


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