Friday, 9 November 2018

New ERC Horizon 2020 Starting Grant in Economic History: Spoils of War: The Economic Consequences of the Great War in Central Europe

Tamás Vonyó is an Assistant Professor
 at Bocconi University in Milan
Dr Tamás Vonyó has been awarded €1.49 million to conduct research on a 'Spoils of WAR' project, which aims to set a new standard in the economic history of the world wars by investigating how the First World War affected regional economic development and industrial organisation in the Habsburg Empire and its successor states. We can directly account for the impact of wartime resource allocation, independent from the outcomes of postwar political disintegration, using abundant, yet understudied, primary data on war contractors. We can detect how war spending affected the spatial concentration of industry, the economic structure of Habsburg regions, and business networks. Case studies on key industries can help to demonstrate how they perceived these changes and what strategies they developed to address them. The project will break through traditional boundaries between economic and business history and integrate the analytical tools of both disciplines. It will shift focus in the recent economic history of the wars from the Second to the First World War and use modern methods in historical economic geography and comparative business history.

The Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy at Bocconi University will host the project between 2019 and 2023. The research team will include two post-doctoral researchers in economic history and two junior research fellows in business history. The vacancies for the two post-doctoral researchers are available here and here (deadline 1.December 2018).

European Historical Economics Society (EHES) Congress, Paris, France, August 29th-31st, 2019

Conference Call for Papers and Sessions
Submission Deadline – Midnight (GMT), Thursday January 31st, 2019
The thirteenth EHES Congress will be held at the Paris School of Economics.
The Conference Programme Committee invites proposals for sessions and individual papers on any aspect of European or global economic history covering a wide range of periods, countries and regions. In order to allow as many scholars as possible to participate, each participant will be limited to give only one presentation (he/she can also be a co-author in other papers presented at the conference, as long as another co-author participates and presents each of these paper). The Society encourages submissions from young scholars. There will be at least 10 bursaries of € 300-400 each to help PhD students cover the costs of travel and accommodation. Further details will be available soon on the Conference website.
Paper proposals shall include an abstract not exceeding 500 words, along with the authors' institutional affiliations and email addresses and the keywords on the period, country/region and topic. Session proposals shall include a short presentation of the session objectives, along with the abstracts (max 500 words each) of 3 to 5 papers. All submissions should be uploaded by January 31st, 2019 via the conference’s website:
Additional Information:
All submissions will be acknowledged upon receipt. Notices of acceptance will be sent to the corresponding authors by April 1st, 2019.
Paris School of Economics, 48 boulevard Jourdan, Paris, France.
Program Committee:
Herman de Jong (University of Groningen)
Kerstin Enflo (Lund University)
Pierre-Cyrille Hautcoeur (EHESS and Paris School of Economics)
Sibylle Lehmann-Hasemeyer (Hohenheim University)
January 31st, 2019: submission deadline
April 1st, 2019: notification of acceptance
July 31st, 2019: end of registration

Friday, 2 November 2018

Two stories, one fate: Age-heaping and literacy in Spain, 1877-1930

New EHES Working Paper by  Francisco J. Beltrán Tapia (NTNU), Alfonso Díez-Minguela, Julio Martinez-Galarraga and Daniel A. Tirado (Universitat de València) is available here.
Francisco J. Beltrán Tapia is an assoociate professor at the
Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Economic and social progress has been closely related to advances in human capital. Numerous studies have stressed its relevance for economic growth (Romer, 1986; Lucas, 1988; Gennaioli et al., 2013). In economic history, however, there are mixed views on the role played by human capital in economic development. While some studies claim it was fundamental, other studies cast doubt on this assertion. In recent years, however, there have been further attempts to stress the importance of human capital. For example, it has been argued that rather than the average level of human capital of a society what mattered was the “elite” or upper-tail of the knowledge distribution (Mokyr, 2009). 

Having said that, it appears that one of the challenges, if not the main challenge, in this literature is identification, and hence measurement. Human capital is a broad concept (Goldin, 2015). In this study we look at human capital, captured with age-heaping and literacy, in a historical setting: Spain 1877-1930. For this, we use administrative data from Spanish population censuses between 1877 and 1930 (T=6) and calculate the level of age-heaping (Whipple’s index) by province (N=49) and gender. The Whipple index is then converted into an ABCC index for practical matters. Interestingly, the Spanish population censuses also offer information on the self-reported ability to read and write, which permit the comparison of both measures.

The main finding of this study is that age-heaping was relatively stable in the early population counts, both at the national and provincial level. In fact, it did only start to decrease in the early 20th century. This result goes in line with other works that claim that living standards in Spain only began to significantly improve in the early 20th century (Pérez Moreda et al., 2015; Martínez Carrión, 2016). Yet, this story is more difficult to reconcile with the existing evidence as regards to literacy. Literacy rates, as the figure below shows, experienced a gradual improvement since 1860 (Núñez, 1992). Besides, we also find that age-heaping was surprisingly low in certain areas. For instance, in the capital-city of Madrid and in the north-centre provinces age-heaping was trivial but literacy was still rather low (although this area exhibited the highest literacy rates within Spain). Likewise, gender gaps in age-heaping were negligible, even in provinces with striking differences between male and female literacy rates.

Figure. ABCC index (%) and literacy in Spain by province, 1877-1930.
 Notes: Data for the following population censuses: 1877, 1887, 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. The solid line represents the regression line, while the black-squares are the national average.
Source: INE and authors’ calculations

In sum, using administrative data from the Spanish population censuses this study shows that age-heaping remained unchanged in the second half of the 19th century while literacy, on the other hand, improved substantially. This, in turn, raises further questions. Age-heaping might result from poor numeracy skills, ignorance, or deliberate misreporting. However, the capacity of the public administration could somehow affect the effectiveness of the data collection process. Moreover, although these measures capture distinct skills one would expect certain complementarity. Theoretically, these two stories are expected to converge but our study shows that literacy and age-heaping did not go hand-in-hand until the early 20th century. 


Gennaioli, N., La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F. and Shleifer, A. 2013. “Human capital and regional development”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 128 (1), 105-164.
Goldin, C. 2015. “Human capital”. In C. Diebolt and M. Haupert (eds.), Handbook of Cliometrics, ch. 3, Berlin and Heidelberg: Springer, 55-86.
Lucas, R. 1988. “On the mechanics of economic development”, Journal of Monetary Economics, 22 (1), 3-42.
Martínez Carrión, J.M. 2016. “Living standards, nutrition and inequality in the Spanish industrialisation. An anthropometric view”, Revista de Historia Industrial, 64, 11-50.
Mokyr, J. 2009. The Enlightened economy: an economic history of Britain 1700-1850, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Núñez, C.E. 1992. La fuente de la riqueza: educación y desarrollo económico en la España contemporánea, Madrid: Alianza.
Pérez Moreda, V. Reher, D.S. and Sanz Gimeno, D. 2015. La conquista de la salud: mortalidad y modernización en la España contemporánea, Madrid: Marcial Pons.
Romer, P.M. 1986. “Increasing returns and long-run growth”, Journal of Political Economy, 94 (5), 1002-1037.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Two Worlds of Female Labour: Gender Wage Inequality in Western Europe, 1300-1800

New EHES working paper by Alexandra M. de Pleijt (University of Oxford) and  Jan Luiten van Zanden (Utrecht University). The paper can be accessed here.
Jan Luiten van Zanden is a Full Professor
of Global Economic History at Utrecht University
Sandra de Pleijt is a post-doctoral
research fellow at Oxford University
It is generally acknowledged that the degree to which women participate in labour markets and how they are remunerated are important determinants of female autonomy that may also affect their demographic behaviour. Such links have been discussed in the literature about the “European Marriage Pattern” (EMP) (e.g. de Moor and van Zanden 2010). In order to bring about the conditions for female autonomy of the EMP (in which women have a large say in the decision when and with whom they marry), women should have had access to the labour market and have earned a decent wage. This is clearly affected by the gender wage gap and the possibility that women earn their own living and have the option to remain single.
In this paper we determine to what extent this was made possible by the earnings of women in the labour market. So far several have tried to document women’s wages in different times and places (e.g. Van Nederveen Meerkerk 2010, Van Zanden 2011, Burnette 2008), but Humphries and Weisdorf (2015) were the first to attempt to match Clark’s (2007) evidence on the long-run evolution of male wages with comparable series for unskilled English workers between 1260 and 1850. We supplement the work by Humphries and Weisdorf (2015) with evidence on women’s wages for six European countries between 1300 and 1800: Belgium (Antwerp), Spain (Navarra, Aragon and Sevilla), Germany (Augsburg and Wurzburg), Italy (Piedmont and Napoli), Sweden (Stockholm) and Austria (Weyer).
            Having derived the evidence for unskilled female wages for this set of European countries allows us first of all to study the trends in the gender wage gap across countries and over time. Our evidence shows that there were two worlds of female labour. In the South of Europe women earned about 50% of the wage of unskilled male labourers. In the North-Western part of Europe this gap was much smaller during the Medieval Period, but it increased dramatically between about 1500 and 1800. Our findings therefore seem to suggest that women were more marginal in the labour market in Southern Europe than in the Northern and Western parts of Europe. In addition, we hypothesise that the rise of the gender wage gap in North-Western Europe over the course of the early modern period was the result of slack labour markets: periods of economic growth saw a decreasing wage gap, whereas in periods of declining real wags for men often also witnessed an increase in the gender wage gap. The implication of this finding is that women seem to have suffered more than men in times of economic hardship. In that sense they were truly marginal – a point also made by Langdon (2010) and Mate (1998) – and arguably became increasingly marginal.
We also estimate if single women were able to generate enough income to maintain a single household. In doing so, we have calculated how many days of work were needed for women to earn the barebones basket (i.e. minimum subsistence package for one person) (Allen 2001, Allen and Weisdorf 2011). The picture that emerges from this is that there was a “golden age of labour” in Western Europe. In the countries bordering the North Sea ca. 75 days of work were required for the barebones basket before the Black Death, whereas this had declined to ca. 25 to 40 days of work in the first half of the 15th century. After 1500, when the population level climbed back to pre-plague levels, there was a tendency to increase again. These numbers suggest however that it was possible for a woman with access to the labour market to earn an income that allowed her to remain single.

Allen, Robert C. (2001). “The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War.” Explorations in Economic History 38(4): 411-47.
Allen, Robert C., and Jacob L. Weisdorf (2011). “Was There an Industrious Revolution Before the Industrial Revolution? An empirical exercise for England, ca. 1300-1830.” Economic History Review 64: 715-29.
Burnette, J. (2008). Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Clark, G. (2007). “The long march of history: Farm wages, population and economic growth, England 1209-1869.” Economic History Review 60(1): 97-136.
De Moor, Tine, and Jan Luiten van Zanden (2010). Girl Power: The European Marriage Pattern and Labour Markets in the North Sea Region in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period.” Economic History Review 63(1): 1-33.
Humphries, Jane, and Jacob L. Weisdorf (2015). “The Wages of Women in England, 1260-1850.” The Journal of Economic History 72(2): 405-47.
Mate, Mavis (1998). Daughters, Wives and Widows after the Black Death. Women in Sussex, 1350-1535. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.
Van Nederveen Meerkerk, Elise (2010). “Market Wage or Discrimination? The Remuneration of Male and Female Wool Spinners in the Seventeenth-century Dutch Republic.” Economic History Review 62(1): 165-86.
Van Zanden, Jan Luiten (2011). “The Malthusian Intermezzo: Women’s Wages and Human Capital Formation between the late Middle Ages and the Demographic Transition of the 19th Century.” The History of the Family, 16: 331-42. 

Friday, 6 July 2018

The Napoleonic Wars: A Watershed in Spanish History?

New EHES working paper by Leandro Prados de la Escosura and Carlos Santiago-Caballero (Universidad Carlos III).

Leandro Prados de la Escosura
(Universidad Carlos III, Groningen, and CEPR)
The Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815) are usually depicted as a major juncture in European history. Historians’ assessments of the Peninsular War (1808-1814) tend to emphasise its negative short-term impact. In our new paper we survey the short- and long-run effects of war. 

The Peninsular War had deep and negative short-run economic consequences in Spain. The demographic direct and indirect impact represented the population falling one million short of its potential and just its direct effects were half a million casualties, around 5 per cent of the population the bloodiest conflict in Spain’s modern history. On agriculture the effects were ambiguous. On the one hand, lack of enforcement of Ancien Régime institutions, allow producers to increase cultivation and pay lower land rents. On the other, confiscations hit livestock and, therefore, the stock of capital. The war afflicted the industrial sector by reducing consumption, increasing transport costs and input prices, and diverting productive investment. Services were also disrupted and international trade collapsed, as did Government revenues. As a consequence, GDP per head fell, with uneven impact across regions.

Carlos Santiago-Caballero
(Universidad Carlos III)
The Peninsular War also sparked the fight for independence in Spanish America. The empire strengthened absolutist monarchy as colonial revenues (a substantial share of total revenues), as by reducing the need to increase taxation at the metropolis, allowed concentrating power without extensive bargaining with its subjects and institutions. The loss of the colonies had negative effects on capital formation, trade, manufacturing industry, and Government revenues, but the overall impact on GDP was much lower than previously assumed and mainly restricted to particular regions and economic sectors. However, by facilitating the fall of the absolutism, it may have contributed significantly to the transition to liberalism in Spain.

The institutional changes that started with and followed the Peninsular War were part of the liberal reforms. The liberal revolution brought with it a redefinition of property rights that changed the population status from subjects to citizens equal before the law, the liberalization of commodity and factor markets, and the Parliamentary control of public revenues and expenditure. It was, nonetheless, a long process fraught with difficulties and partial reversals.

A glance at the post-Napoleonic Wars era reveals a distinctive behaviour, when compared to the pre-war era, for any dimension of social and economic activity. Population expansion accelerated nearly doubling its pace in the late 18th century while the rate of urbanization increased remarkably. Agriculture became more efficient, gradually oriented towards expanding Western European markets, andconsumption per head improved. As for manufacturing, while traditional industries collapsed, modern industries continued adopting new technologies. The more competitive and flexible sectors adapted to new circumstances with the economy expanding steadily, except during Carlist War (1833-1839), and population growth was accompanied by a sustained increase in GDP per head. Nonetheless, despite faster growth and higher levels of per capita income than ever before, Spain fell gradually behind northwestern European countries.

The empirical evidence on the post–war era suggests that the Napoleonic Wars constituted a defining moment in Spanish history. However, the relevant question seems to be whether in the absence of war, the Enlightenment elite would have carried out the reform of the absolutist state, initiating a gradual transition towards a liberal society. Sound public finance and international integration into the trade and financial world, plus the spread of liberal ideas, prior to the war suggest a positive answer, while the connections between absolutism and the colonial empire and the difficulties and reversals faced by liberal reformers support a negative one.

Using structural breaks in the series, trends for the different variables before the war were computed and extrapolated to the post-war period, with counterfactual values compared to the actual ones. It can be suggested that had pre-war trends persisted in the early nineteenth century, the important gains achieved would not have been possible.

To sum up, the economic consequences of the Peninsular War in Spain were clearly negative in the short term with hard demographic effects, forced expropriations, a heavy blow for traditional industries, a severe contraction in international trade, and a decline in GDP per head. Nonetheless, the Napoleonic Wars triggered a complex transition from an absolutist empire to a modern nation. The liberal reforms redefined property rights and shifted the control of the executive to the parliament. The long-term consequences were a more efficient allocation of resources and sustained economic growth despite serious obstacles (civil wars and military takeovers) that deferred the transition. On the whole, the Napoleonic Wars may be depicted watershed.

The working paper can be downloaded here.

Monday, 18 June 2018

CfP: The nutrition transition and beyond: dietary change in the world since 1945

FERNANDO COLLANTES (University of Zaragoza) and ERNST LANGTHALER (Johannes Kepler University Linz) would like to propose a session on dietary change since 1945 for the upcoming Rural History 2019 conference (Paris, 10-13 September). As a preparation, they are happy to issue now this informal call for papers.

 They would like to shape the session around three topics:

 (1)  Major trends in food consumption in the world since 1945. All across the world, diets have been changing rapidly and profoundly in the period from 1945 to the present. In the global North, the postwar decades witnessed the rise of the “Western diet” rich in processed foodstuffs (meat, vegetable oils, sugar etc.) and the culmination of the “classical” period of the nutrition transition, while the last few decades have featured a turn towards differentiated products and qualitative substitutions (“food from nowhere” – “food from somewhere”). In the global South, some traits of a nutrition transition can be detected, but such transition seems to be unfolding in ways that do not necessarily mimic those of the global North at an earlier stage. One major area of interest for us is the measurement, description and identification of these major trends.

(2)  Causes of diet change. Changes in food consumption seem to be partly related to economic factors, such as the evolution of consumer income and food prices. These in turn connect the analysis of diet change to broader issues of economic growth, inequality and food chain dynamics. Yet, few would dispute that these economic variables exert their impact within specific political, social and cultural contexts (patriotic campaigns, social movements, religious norms, etc.), the study of which is essential to our understanding of the causes of diet change. They particularly welcome analyses of the causes of diet change that aim at capturing this interplay of economic, political, social and cultural elements.

 (3)  Consequences of diet change. The most immediate impact of diet change has to do with consumer health. There is now widespread concern about the negative consequences of excessive, unhealthy food consumption styles in the global North, as well as an increasing awareness of the role of food security in human development in the global South. Yet, there are other, indirect consequences of diet change, such as those that impact on the environment or on social cohesion. Diet change since 1945 has probably contributed to intensifying the food system’s impact on the environment, but there are also signs of increasing consumer interest in organic, seasonal and regional foods. In the long run, the nutrition transition probably contributes to the making of a middle-class, mass consumer society, but the more recent turn towards differentiated foods and qualitative substitutions may well have started a new cycle of class-based differentiation.

They welcome paper proposals on these three areas, broadly defined. Interdisciplinary, cross-country analyses will be very well received, but we are also interested in papers that provide in-depth accounts of particular products and countries. Papers that are explicitly framed within theoretical perspectives from the social sciences are encouraged, but other papers will be considered as well.

If you want to join us for this session, please send us a title and a short abstract of about 200 words to our email addresses: and

The deadline for this is September 28. Please realize that, in case that our session proposal is accepted, preference will be given to those of you who join us at this early stage.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Well-being Inequality in the Long Run

Leandro Prados de la Escosura 
(Universidad Carlos III, Groningen, and CEPR)
Abstract of the new EHES working paper by Leandro Prados de la Escosura. The paper is available here

In the last one and a half centuries, substantial gains are observed for well-being dimensions beyond per capita GDP (including health, education, political voice, civil liberties, and personal security) (Bourguignon and Morrisson, 2002; Morrisson and Murtin, 2009; Prados de la Escosura, 2015; Pinker, 2018). How have these gains been distributed? Do inequality trends in well-being dimensions concur? In a recent research I have tried to answer these questions presenting a long-run view of well-being inequality at world scale based on a new historical dataset (Prados de la Escosura, 2018).

How to measure well-being?
Most studies address inequality in well-being social dimensions using their original values (Becker et al., 2005; Bourguignon and Morrisson, 2002; Morrisson and Murtin, 2013) but as non-income well-being indicators have asymptotic limits that reflect biological or physical maxima, the range of variation is very narrow, forcing smaller gains (both absolute and relative) as their levels get higher (Sen, 1981; Dasgupta, 1990). The shortcomings of using original values (or, for the same token, its linear transformation) become more evident when quality is taken into account. Life expectancy at birth or years of schooling are just crude proxies for a long and healthy life and for access to knowledge. These objections are particularly relevant when the distribution of social dimensions of well-being is measured across countries and over time, as the use of original values unavoidably leads towards convergence. A way of mitigating such a spurious tendency is employing Kakwani (1993) non-linear transformation of health and education dimensions which for achievements of the same absolute size, imply that the higher the starting level, the larger its impact.

Inequality Trends
Initial high levels of inequality in education -well above those for per capita income and life expectancy at birth- are observed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, prior to the diffusion of mass primary education (Benavot and Riddle, 1988). Thereafter, inequality experienced steady decline throughout most of the twentieth century in terms of literacy and years of schooling, and in gross enrolment terms fell to the early 1980s, but suffered a reversal in the 1990s. Nonetheless, inequality was still high in the third quarter of the twentieth century. Globalisation of primary education has steered the inequality decline.

Figure 1. Population-weighted Inequality in Years of Schooling 1870-2015 (Kakwani Index)

 The diffusion of the health transitions has driven life expectancy inequality. During the epidemiological (or first health) transition that derives from the diffusion of the germ theory of disease, persistent gains in lower mortality and higher survival were achieved, since infectious disease gave way to chronic disease as the main cause of death (Omran, 1971). Thus, substantial achievements in longevity were attained. However, these gains were not shared equally within societies and across countries. Lack of economic means and basic scientific knowledge prevented it. The increase in life expectancy inequality in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century can be associated to the uneven distribution of first health transition initially restricted to advanced western countries (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Population-weighted Inequality in Life Expectancy, 1870-2015 (Kakwani Index)

The gradual international diffusion of the health transition between the 1920s and the 1970s helps to explain the reduction in life expectancy inequality. Its contraction was particularly intense during the globalisation backlash (1914-1950), at a time of stagnant or declining average incomes in many countries and increasing international income inequality (Riley, 2005; van Zanden et al. 2014)). Improvements in public health –often at low cost, as low incomes prevented the purchase of the new drugs- and the diffusion of preventive methods of disease transmission and knowledge dissemination through school education contributed to reducing infant mortality and maternal death, two major determinants of the increase in life expectancy at birth in developing regions (Riley, 2001). At the turn of the 20th century, a new health transition emerged. In this new transition, mortality and morbidity have fallen among the elderly as a result of new medical knowledge that has permitted a better treatment of respiratory and cardiovascular disease and vision problems (Chernew et al., 2016). The rise in longevity has also been helped by better nutrition in early years of life. The result is people living not just longer life but longer healthy life years (Mathers et al., 2001; Salomon et al., 2012). Thus, the increase in life expectancy inequality after 1990 may be associated, not just to the impact of HIV-AIDS in Sub Saharan Africa or to the effects of the demise of socialism in Eastern Europe, but also to a second health transition so far restricted to the developed world.

Figure 3. Life expectancy: Population-weighted Inequality (Gini) versus Level (Kakwani indices) 

An association could be suggested between the level of longevity and its international distribution. The observed inverted U shape curve relationship between inequality and the level of life expectancy at birth could be deemed a Health Kuznets Curve (Figure 3). The driving force of the Health Kuznets Curve (HKC) would be the spread of the health transitions across countries. The uneven diffusion of the epidemiological or first transition would account for its rise, while its gradual diffusion across the globe would explain its decline. Moreover, it could be insinuated that the closing of the Health Kuznets Curve gave way to a new one. The new HKC appears to have been short-lived as longevity differences across countries resulting from the uneven diffusion of the second health transition (Cutler et al. 2006) have been offset, at least temporarily, by the recovery of life expectancy in Sub Saharan Africa and former socialist Europe.

 Figure 4. Population-weighted Inequality in Human Development and Real Per Capita GDP, 1870-2015 (MLD)

These findings are at odds with the view on long run inequality derived from real per capita GDP. While population-weighted income inequality increased until the third quarter of the twentieth century, inequality in social dimensions declined since World War I. Furthermore, the contrast between inequality in terms of income and human development (Figure 4) is striking and challenges the idea that per capita income provides a good predictor of welfare trends.

Pressing questions emerge demanding new research. Why inequality declined in terms of social dimensions, but not of GDP per head? Was it due to public policy, or to the public good properties of medical technology? Why has there been no second health transition in the Rest? Is it the outcome of inequalising new medical technologies, or of lack of public policies? As the new medical technologies become accessible, is it foreseeable a decline in life expectancy inequality in the twentieth-first century?


 Becker, G. S., T. J. Philipson, and R.R. Soares (2005), The Quantity and Quality of Life and the evolution of world inequality, American Economic Review 95 (1): 277–291

Benavot, A. and P. Riddle (1988), “The Expansion of Primary Education, 1870-1940: Trends and Issues,” Sociology of Education 61: 191-210.

Bourguignon, F. and C. Morrisson (2002), “Inequality among World Citizens”, American Economic Review 92, 4: 727-744.

Chernew, M., D.M. Cutler, K. Gosh, and M.B. Landrum (2016), Understanding the Improvement in Disability Free Life Expectancy in the U.S. Elderly Population, NBER Working Paper Series 22306.

Cutler, D.M., A. Deaton and A. Lleras-Muney (2006), “The Determinants of Mortality”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 20: 97-120.

Dasgupta, P. (1990), “Well-Being and the Extent of its Realization in Poor Countries”, Economic Journal 100 (400): 1-32.

Kakwani, N. (1993), “Performance in Living Standards. An International Comparison”, Journal of Development Economics 41: 307-336.

Mathers, C. D., R. Sadana, J.A. Salomon, C.J.L. Murray, and A.D. Lopez (2001), “Healthy Life Expectancy in 191 Countries”, Lancet 357: 1685–1691.

Morrison, C. and F. Murtin (2009), “The Century of Education”, Journal of Human Capital 3 (1): 1-42

Morrisson, C. and F. Murtin (2013), “The Kuznets Curve of Human Capital Inequality: 1870–2010”, Journal of Income Inequality 11, 3: 283-301.

Omran, A.R. (1971), “The Epidemiological Transition: A Theory of Epidemiology of Population Change,” Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 49 (4): 509-538.

Pinker, S. (2018), Enlightenment Now. The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress, London and New York: Allen Lane.

Prados de la Escosura, L. (2015), “World Human Development: 1870-2007”, Review of Income and Wealth 61, 2: 220-247.

Prados de la Escosura, L. (2018), Well-being Inequality in the Long Run, EHES Working Paper 131.

Riley, J.C. (2001), Rising Life Expectancy. A Global History, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Riley, J.C. (2005), Poverty and Life Expectancy. The Jamaica Paradox, Cambridge University Press, New York

Salomon, J.A., H. Wang, M.K. Freeman, T. Vos, A.D. Flaxman, A.D. Lopez, and C.J.L. Murray (2012), “Healthy Life Expectancy for 187 Countries, 1990–2010: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden Disease Study 2010,” Lancet 380: 2144-2162

Sen, A.K. (1981), “Public Action and the Quality of Life in Developing Countries,” Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics 43: 287-319.

Zanden, J.L. van, J. Baten, P. Foldvári, and B. van Leeuwen (2014), “The Changing Shape of Global Inequality 1820-2000; Exploring a New Dataset”, Review of Income and Wealth 60 (2): 279-297

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Virtual Issue of the European Review of Economic History on Protectionism

Nikolaus Wolf is a professor at Humboldt
University in Berlin and an editor of the
European Review of  Economic History 
Protectionism is back on the political agenda and with it the question, how do trade and other forces of global markets affect our well-being? Trade theory suggests that specialization along comparative advantages is welfare increasing under a very broad set of assumptions. However, it also suggests that the gains from trade can be very unequally distributed, with a few big winners and a large number of losers. For the most important questions theory alone provides insufficient guidance due to the underlying contingencies: it all depends on institutions, on trade partners, sectors involved, expectations about the future and the like. Therefore, times of crisis direct us back to empirical evidence and notably back to historical episodes that were characterized by large shocks. Already during the late 19th century, the world experienced a period of rapid globalization followed by painful deglobalization. Was the “first globalization” accompanied by efforts to provide social protection for potential losers? What evidence do we have for the effects of tariffs on growth? How did the liberal era of free trade end and why was it so difficult to return to it?
In this virtual issue, we reproduce several papers that have been published in the European Review of Economic History over the last years, all of which address the historical experience of the first globalization, its end and attempts to reintegrate markets after 1945. Michael Huberman and Wayne Lewchuk (2003) discuss in their paper “European economic integration and the labour compact, 1850–1913” how indeed national governments faced with the pressures from globalization before 1914 responded with labor market regulations and social insurance. They show that workers supported free trade as long as they were protected against external risks. But growing pressure from global markets challenged the free trade regime. In his paper “Why Chamberlain failed and Bismarck succeeded: The political economy of tariffs in British and German elections”, Adam Klug (2001) compares the outcomes of three critical elections in European history, the 1877 and 1878 elections in the German Empire and the 1906 election in Britain. While free trade prevailed in Britain, the 1878 election resulted in a protectionist majority that not only shifted the political climate in the German Empire but also triggered protectionist responses abroad. Based on a specific factors model and new data, which allows comparing the two countries, Klug argues that not only economic interests, but also the political system and religious affiliations mattered for election outcomes. Similarly, Sibylle Lehmann and Oliver Volckart (2010)analyse the case of Sweden, roughly a decade later. In their paper “The political economy of agricultural protection: Sweden 1887” they ask to what extent the shift to protectionism in two elections in summer and autumn 1887 can be explained by changing economic interests. Using state-of-the-art techniques they conclude that the outcome of the election can only partially be rationalized and that non-economic factors and indeed “quirks of fate” (Lewin 1988) can sometimes be decisive.
James Foreman-Peck and Andrew Hughes Hallett and Yue Ma (2007) broaden the perspective and consider the experience of the Great Depression after 1929 in their paper “Trade wars and the Slump”. They analyze why international coordination failed and highlight the interplay between domestic and international politics, where domestic issues dominated. They argue that the largest players at the time, the USA and the UK, would have gained little from international cooperation in contrast to France and Germany. Hence, the return to free trade after 1914 was impeded by the unequal gains from international cooperation and large internal conflicts. The massive influence of the USA after 1945 brought free trade policies back on the agenda. This can be read as a warning for today that a slide to protectionism might be hard to reverse.
William Hynes, David S. Jacks and Kevin H- O’Rourke (2012) describe the deglobalization after 1914 in their paper “Commodity market disintegration in the interwar period”. First, they show that the First World War led to a fragmentation of markets, not at least to increased transportation costs. Second, they highlight that after a short period of reintegration in the early 1920s the great depression triggered a further and deeper fragmentation, this time largely due to protectionist policies including the break-up of the international monetary system. It took until the 1970s to reach again the 1913 level of commodity market integration.
Several papers contributed to the debate on tariffs and growth, by addressing the question whether protectionism can have beneficial effects on growth or not. In his paper “New results on the tariff – growth paradox” David S. Jacks (2006) reconsiders the evidence from Bairoch (1972) and O’Rourke (2000) on a positive correlation between economic growth and tariff levels during the late 19th century. First, Jacks finds that indeed tariffs seem to be positively related to growth even after controlling for several confounding factors but also that openness is positively related to growth. To solve this seeming contradiction, he points out that tariffs affect exports and imports differently and suggests that in a non-reciprocal trade environment tariffs might indeed have growth promoting effects. This is related to a large recent literature on institutional factors and the political economy of protectionism. Wolfgang Krause and Douglas J. Puffert (2000) provide an insightful case study on the German Empire before 1914 entitled “Chemicals, strategy, and tariffs: Tariff policy and the soda industry in Imperial Germany”. A key question here is whether protectionist tariffs in the chemical industries can explain the rise of the German chemical industry before 1914. They conclude that increased tariffs in the 1880s played some role for the success of this particular industry, but that other factors, notably independent technological change, were decisive.
A final set of papers analyses the political economy of agricultural policies, an area that was largely exempt from the market liberalization in the Western Economies after 1945. Mark Spoerer (2015) analyses the common agricultural policies (CAP) of the European Economic Community and asks to what extent they can be interpreted as part of the general expansion of the welfare state. In “Agricultural protection and support in the European Economic Community, 1962–92: rent-seeking or welfare policy?” he concludes that “the combined benefits from subsidies, import protection and political prices gave much more benefits to European agriculture than any welfare policy could have done”. Eva Fernandez (2016) puts this into a wider perspective using a global panel of countries for 1920 – 1970 in her paper “Politics, coalitions, and support of farmers, 1920–1975”. She highlights the role of the political system and shows how in continental Europe after 1945 proportional election systems and coalition governments helped to strengthen the political influence of farmers.
This small selection of papers published over the last years in the European Review of Economic History stresses how trade and welfare policies have always been related. It also shows that while the wider economic benefits from protectionism are uncertain at best, domestic policy considerations often trumped international cooperation already 100 years ago.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

ESTER Research Design Course, Cracow

Bartosz Ogórek is an Assistant Professor
at the Pedagogical University in Cracow
In November 2017 ESTER Research Design Course took place in Cracow, Poland. The event was organized by the Pedagogical University of Cracow (Bartosz Ogórek) together with Radboud University Nijmegen (Bram Hoonhout) and WEAST initiative (Mikołaj Malinowski). The main aim of the course is to help PhD students in setting up a high quality and well-designed plan for their dissertation in economic or social history. This goal was achieved by in-depth discussions of the papers prepared by the participants among them and under the guidance of a team of leading senior commentators. Cracow meeting provided a platform for communication for a group of 38 PhD candidates from both Eastern and Western Europe and 13 senior commentators. It is worth noting that for the first time in the ESTER RDC meetings students from Central and Eastern Europe constituted a significant group. Therfore, the programme can largely enhance the communication and cooperation between the scholars in the field based in different parts of Europe. Apart from the scientific programme participants and commentator took part in the social events and explored the city of Cracow.

Friday, 23 February 2018

The Gains from Import Variety in Two Globalisations: Evidence from Germany

Abstract of the new EHES working paper by Wolf-Fabian Hungerland

Wolf-Fabian Hungerland is a Doctoral Student
 at Humboldt University in Berlin
Globalisation is nothing new. Until the outbreak of World War I economies around the world found themselves in a process of integration that invites comparisons to today; just consider Germany’s globalisation experience (Figure 1). On the one hand, growing trade has been tending to expand the consumption opportunities for all. On the other hand, rising populism, both now and then, is—at least in part—fuelled by scepticism if not outright hostility to the international division of labour (Ferguson, 2016). This begs two questions: What are the gains from all that integration in these two episodes of globalisation? And what can we
learn about the structure of demand more generally?

Figure 1: German Imports, 1895-1913 and 1995-2013

One of the more tractable ways of getting hold of the benefits of economic integration to consumers is the idea that the expanding variety of a good yields gains from trade because consumers value variety (Krugman, 1980). That is, in a monopolistically competitive world, consumers prefer to have some choice over different versions of the same good. I operationalise this idea using a standard assumption in the analysis of international trade: Every country makes things slightly different from those made by other countries (Armington, 1969). That is, suppliers differentiate within the products they produce.

Based on the estimated elasticities, I calculate the consumer gains from growing import variety for the ’first globalisation’. The welfare calculations are presented in Table 1. The first finding that demand was more elastic in the first globalisation may imply that there are more welfare gains from changes in variety in the second globalisation. However, from 1907 to 1913, the welfare gain due to growing variety amounts to 0.2 percent of GDP to access the wider set of varieties available in 1913 rather than the set available in 1907. A century later it is only half of that, that is, 0.1 percent. These numbers small at first sight, but because we are looking at estimates of the ’incremental’ gains from import variety (Feenstra, 2010), and only seven-year periods, these numbers are plausible. The results are consistent with previous findings based on similar research designs.

I measure these gains by differentiating between how an exactly measured price index would move with and without changes in the variety of a given set of imported goods. This is Feenstra’s (1994) approach, which has been refined, among others, by Broda and Weinstein (2006). To perform such calculations, I need a measure of substitutability of goods between different source countries that indicates how elastic demand is for a given good, and on the aggregate level, how elastic import demand generally is.

Therefore I estimate elasticities of substitution—a key parameter in many studies of international trade and international macroeconomics—for all goods at various levels of aggregation for both episodes of globalisation, using Soderbery’s (2015) limited information maximum likelihood (LIML) estimator.

Figure 2 plots the distributions of the estimated elasticities, one for the first globalisation and two for the second globalisation, whereby one is based on countries defined by actual borders and one where I superimpose 1913-borders on the country set of today.

Figure 2: Distribution of elasticities of substitution

The results show that the elasticity of substitution varies over time, space and product. The median elasticity is 3.8 in the first globalisation, but only 2.5 in the second. To put this difference in perspective: In Krugman’s (1980) model, which I use to evaluate welfare, these elasticities translate to median mark-ups of 35 percent in the first globalisation but about 66 percent today on prices generated in a perfectly competitive market.

The finding that although demand was more elastic in the first globalisation, welfare gains from import variety were higher than can be explained by the composition of imports. In the first globalisation, variety growth was – in relative terms – stronger than in the second globalisation, at least in the period this article focuses on, as trade-weighted measure of variety growth - so-called lambda-ratios – suggest. That is, despite a much smaller set of goods and their varieties, Germany enjoyed twice as much welfare gains from newly imported varieties than it does today. This result is even more striking when considering that the level of protection ahead of World War I was much higher than it is today. This may reflect the fact that today many ’low hanging fruits’ in terms of variety have been harvested, which resonates with Bordo’s (2017) argument that the world economy’s pace of integration is slowing down or pausing, but not reversing.

A comparison between products and industries shows that the structure of demand is not easily approximated by using one single elasticity of substitution. Both the time horizon as well as the set of trade partners matter. Estimation results for good-specific elasticities of substitution suggest that there is substantial heterogeneity in terms of demand elasticity over goods and their varieties. Figure 3 plots the elasticities for the same three-digit industries, estimated for the first and the second globalisation. One prevalent assumption is that the elasticity for a given good is stable over time. The results show that this is not the case. There are industries that commanded a higher elasticity then but a stiffer demand now, and vice versa. Only a minority of industries experienced little change in demand elasticity. The same holds, even more strongly when going down to the product level. Of course, all this applies only to goods that were traded in both episodes of globalisation. 

Figure 3: Industry-specific elasticities of substitution compared

Based on the estimated elasticities, I calculate the consumer gains from growing import variety for the ’first globalisation’. The welfare calculations are presented in Table 1. From 1907 to 1913, the welfare gain due to growing variety amounts to 0.2 percent of GDP to access the wider set of varieties available in 1913 rather than the set available in 1907. A century later it is only half of that, that is, 0.1 percent. The welfare results seem small at first sight, but because we are looking at estimates of the ’incremental’ gains from import variety (Feenstra, 2010), and only seven-year periods, these numbers are plausible. The results are consistent with previous findings based on similar research designs.

Put differently, despite a much smaller set of goods and their varieties, Germany enjoyed twice as much welfare gains from newly imported varieties than it does today. This result is even more striking when considering that the level of protection ahead of World War I was much higher than it is today. This may reflect the fact that today many ’low hanging fruits’ in terms of variety have been harvested, which resonates with Bordo’s (2017) argument that the world economy’s pace of integration is slowing down or pausing, but not reversing.

Table 1 also reports welfare calculations based on different elasticities of substitution. Column (2) reports the welfare when the period-specific median elasticity, i.e. 3.81 for 1907 to 1913 and 2.47 for 2007 to 2013 is used. The welfare gains would more than halve in both episodes in comparison to the benchmark results on welfare in column (1). Column (3) gives the welfare results when the median elasticities of the respective other period is used. For the 1907-1913 period, welfare is lower by a quarter. For the 2007-2013 period, welfare falls to fifth. Column (4) takes the good-specific elasticities from the respective other period. Welfare turns out to be a fifth of the benchmark results for both episodes. Columns (5) to (7) use various uniform elasticities traditionally used in the literature. Welfare would turn out even lower. The bottom line of these alternative welfare estimates is: Using ad hoc elasticities or a set of good-specific elasticities originating from data other than that the researcher would like to explain can be misleading. This is not only relevant for welfare analysis, but it also applies to analyses that rely on the elasticity of substitution as a parameter to evaluate the effects of changes in trade costs.

The working paper of this article can be downloaded here:


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