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Bruno Caprettini

Economic History and Economic Development

About me

I am a post-doc at the Economics Department of University of Zurich. I work on development, political economy and economic history.

What is new?

Lorenzo, Miriam and I have just completed a new version of our land reform paper. Read it here.

I’m an economist working on development, political economy and economic history. I’m especially interested in the impact of new technologies on growth and welfare. I also work on the political economy of mobilization and civic engagement. I hold a Ph.D. from Universitat Pompeu Fabra and I’m currently SNF Ambizione fellow at the University of Zurich. During the academic year 2020-21, I was a visiting fellow at the Economics Department of Northwestern University. Here you find few examples of my work. For more, visit my research page.

Redistribution and Clientelism

Do redistribution policies promote or undermine clientelism? On the one hand, redistributing wealth to the poor may make it harder for politicians to buy their votes, thus limiting clientelist exchanges. At the same time, client-patron relationships are based on gratitude and reciprocity. By generating gratitude among beneficiaries, redistribution may then create the conditions for clientelism to emerge. In a paper with Lorenzo Casaburi and Miriam Venturini we argue that this second channel can be strong, and show that a major land reform in 1950 Italy led to the emergence of a clientelist system that lasted for 40 years.

New Deal, New Patriots

Why do ordinary citizens take up arms and fight for their nation? What turns normal folks into patriots? Joachim Voth and I think that the answer lies in modern welfare states. Modern nation-states provide support to the old, to the sick, and to the needy. By helping in times of distress, these states acquire a moral claim on their citizens, and motivate them to fight in times of danger. In a new paper, we show the strength of this idea in the case of the US during the New Deal and World War II.

Rage Against the Machines

What happens when the machines take over? When robots, powered by AI, can do almost everything better than humans?  Will workers substituted by machines adapt and find new jobs, or will they revolt and fight back? In Rage Against the Machines (AER-Insights) Joachim Voth and I look at Industrializing Britain and the Swing of 1830 to answer these questions.

Agricultural Technologies and Industrialization

When countries trade with each other, advanced agricultural technology can delay industrialization, because countries where agriculture is more productive will specialize in this sector, trading agricultural goods for manufactures. But what happens when farmers adopts a new, labor-saving technology? In Agricultural Productivity and Structural Transformation (AER 2016) Paula Bustos, Jacopo Ponticelli 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.