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Bruno Caprettini

Economic History and Economic Development

About me

I am a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Economics of the University of Zurich. I work on economic history and development economics

What is new?

On the 3rd of July 2018, I received the MERCATOR Award.

The key to unlocking prosperity

In August 2017, I received an SNF Ambizione grant for the project “Structural change: lessons from the present and from the past.” Structural change is the movement of labor out of agriculture (example): every rich country today went through this process at some point over the past 300 years. However, structural change has not happened everywhere, and this matters because people who live in rural areas and work in agriculture are not just poorer. They are also more likely to be illiterate, to have no access to medicines, to have starved at least once in their lives and in general they are more likely to report to be unhappy (data from the 6th wave of the World Value Survey). This is why understanding the causes of structural change has the potential to have great impact on human welfare.

In my research, I study episodes of structural change that happened in the past or in recent years. Here are two examples of my research, for more of my work see my Research page

Rage Against The Machines

What happens when machines take over? When robots can do almost everything, and no job is left for humans? Will humans quietly go out of work, or will they resist, and try to put the new machines out of service? In Rage Against the Machines Joachim and I examine a classic episode, the so-called ‘Captain Swing’ riots in 1830 Britain.

Agricultural Productivity & Structural Transformation

When countries trade with each other, advanced agricultural technology can delay industrialization, because countries where agriculture is more productive will specialize in this sector and will trade agricultural goods for manufactures. But what happens when farmers adopts a new, labor-saving technology? In Agricultural Productivity and Structural Transformation Paula, Jacopo and I show that when new agricultural technologies are labor-saving, they allow to expand agricultural production and promote reallocation of labor to the manufacturing sector at the same time.