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Why do people fight for their country? The risk is high, the payoff uncertain. We show that receiving welfare support can be a key motivating factor. During the 1930s New Deal, welfare spending surged in the US. Support for World War II was greater where pre-war welfare support was more generous: citizens bought more war bonds, volunteered more, and more soldiers won a medal. Two instruments suggest that the effect is causal: weather shocks (droughts) and congressional committee representation predict New Deal spending, leading to more bond buying, volunteering, and medals. Economic factors cannot account for these patterns.


Can new technology cause social instability and unrest? We examine the famous `Captain Swing’ riots in 1830s England. Newly-collected data on threshing machine diffusion shows that labor-saving technology was associated with more riots. We instrument technology adoption with the share of heavy soils in a parish: IV estimates demonstrate that threshing machines were an important cause of unrest. Where alternative employment opportunities softened the blow of new technology, there was less rioting. Conversely, where enclosures had impoverished workers, the effect of threshing machines on rioting was amplified.

We study the effects of the adoption of new agricultural technologies on structural transformation. To guide empirical work, we present a simple model where the effect of agriculturalproductivity on industrial development depends on the factor bias of technical change. We test the predictions of the model by studying the introduction of genetically engineered soybean seeds in Brazil, which had heterogeneous effects on agricultural productivity across areas with different soil and weather characteristics. We find that technical change in soy production was strongly labor saving and led to industrial growth, as predicted by the model.

Working Papers


Many democracies around the world feature pervasive clientelist practices. How these systems emerge and persist is a central question in political economy. Redistribution policies can reduce poverty and inequality, thus undermining important determinants of clientelism. On the other hand, these policies may increase the dependency of voters on politicians, thus promoting clientelist exchanges. Therefore, the relation between redistribution and clientelism is a priori ambiguous. We study how voting and clientelism respond to a major redistribution policy, the 1950 Italian land reform. Using a panel spatial regression discontinuity and data for half a century, we show that the large-scale redistribution led to the emergence of a long-lasting clientelist system characterized by political brokers, patronage, and targeted benefits. Within this system, the Christian Democratic party, which promoted the reform, experienced persistent electoral gains.


We collect new data and present new evidence on the effects of labor scarcity on the adoption of labor-saving technology in industrializing England. Where the British armed forces recruited heavily, more machines that economized on labor were adopted. For purposes of identification, we focus on naval recruitment. Using warships’ ease of access to coastal locations as an instrument, we show that exogenous shocks to labor scarcity led to technology adoption. The same shocks are only weakly associated with the adoption of non-labor saving technologies. Importantly, there is also a synergy between skill abundance and labor scarcity boosting technology adoption. Where labor shortages led to the adoption of labor-saving machines, technology afterwards improved more rapidly.


Political polarization is a growing concern in many countries. Are mass protests merely a sign of increasing cleavages, or do they polarize societies? In this paper, we estimate the impact of Nazi marches in 1932 Hamburg, using granular data from 622 voting precincts during 6 elections. We show propaganda can convince – but it does so the most in areas with high initial support. Importantly, marches can also backfire, repelling voters. Thus political campaigning leads to polarization. These effects diffused through social networks, measured as contagion patterns across neighborhoods from the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak. The electoral effects of social spillovers are of similar importance as direct exposure, and grow over time.

Work in progress

The New Occupations of the Industrial Revolution

with Daron Acemoglu and Hans-Joachim Voth.


Looking at the occupational composition of England over two centuries, we try to explain the emergence and disappearance of jobs.

Team Visibility and City Travel:

Evidence from the UEFA Champions League Random Draw

Winner of Best Paper Award at Sports, Data and Journalism Conference. Journal of Sports Economics 2021, 22(1): 85-114. dyreg: Stata code to compute dyadic standard errors on an incomplete network (adapted from Marcel Fafchamps’ ngreg)


Does hosting a sports team boost the visibility of a city among tourists? I test this proposition by looking at the effect of playing soccer’s UEFA Champions’ League on air travel. I compare routes across cities that had their teams randomly drawn into the same group in the first phase of the competition to routes across cities hosting teams randomly allocated to different groups. The average effect of being drawn into the same group is between 5% and 8% more arrivals for the 3 months following the group stage, a period which coincides with a break in the competition. The first appearance of a team in the competition has a larger impact on air travel, providing suggestive evidence of diminishing returns of exposure.



Overcoming coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will likely require mass vaccination. With vaccination scepticism rising in many countries, assessing the willingness to vaccinate against COVID-19 is of crucial global health importance.


The goal of this study was to examine how personal and family COVID-19 risk and ICU (intensive care unit) availability just before the pandemics influence the acceptance of future COVID-19 vaccines.


A two-leg survey was carried out for comparing vaccination attitudes pre-and post-COVID-19. UK residents were surveyed in October 2019 about their vaccination attitudes, and again in a follow-up survey in April 2020, containing the previous questions and further ones related to COVID-19 exposure and COVID-19 vaccine attitudes. The study combined survey results with local COVID-19 incidence and pre-COVID-19 measures of ICU capacity and occupancy. Regression analysis of the impact of individual and public health factors on attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination was performed.


The October 2019 survey included a nationally representative sample of 1653 UK residents. All of them were invited for the follow-up survey in April 2020, and 1194 (72%) participated. The April 2020 sample remained nationally representative. Overall, 85% of respondents (and 55% of vaccine sceptics) would be willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Higher personal and family risk for COVID-19 was associated with stronger COVID-19 vaccination willingness, whereas low pre-COVID-19 ICU availability was associated with lower trust in medical experts and lower COVID-19 vaccine support. Further, general vaccination support has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Support for COVID-19 vaccination is high amongst all groups, even vaccine sceptics, boding well for future vaccination take-up rates. Vaccination willingness is correlated with health care availability during the COVID-19 crisis, suggesting a powerful synergy between health care system performance during crisis and the general population’s trust in the medical profession – as reflected in vaccination support.

Finance and the Diffusion of Digital Technologies

Winner of Angelo Costa Award. Rivista di Politica Economica 2008, 98(6):79-122. Italian version.


The paper examines how different dimensions of financial development have influenced firms’ willingness to adopt new digital technologies (IT). To do so, it introduces an econometric analysis based on an Error Correction Model run over a panel of fifteen industrialized countries. The results point to the importance of stock market development and suggest that market-based systems encourage digital investments better than bank-based ones. The evidence is consistent with theories that stress the effective selection of projects carried out by stock markets and the positive role that new financial tools traded within these markets had on IT adoption.