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.

Christian Dippel, Daniel Trefler, 05 November 2017

One way employers can compel workers to accept contracts they otherwise would not accept is by limiting the outside options for those workers. This column explores this facet of labour coercion in the context of post-Emancipation Caribbean islands prior to WWI. On islands where freed slaves had options other than plantation work, sugar exports fell dramatically. Where geographic factors limited these outside options, such as Antigua and Barbados, the plantation system continued to prosper.

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