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Publications

Abstract
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.
Abstract
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

Abstract

Many democracies around the world feature pervasive clientelist practices. Inequality is often considered a key determinant of these practices. By reducing inequality, redistributive policies may therefore undermine clientelism. However, by inducing gratitude and reciprocity among benefi ciaries, redistribution may also initiate clientelist exchange. We study the long-term e ffects of 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 benefi ts. Within this system, the Christian Democratic party, which promoted the reform, experienced persistent electoral benefi ts.

Abstract
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.
Abstract

Propaganda can convince or repel. Social interactions can magnify these effects. We estimate the impact of Nazi marches in 1932 Hamburg, using granular data on all households. Direct exposure immediately affected voting — propaganda was persuasive. To study diffusion, we measure social connections using contagion patterns from the 1918 Spanish flu, combined with social similarity. Nazi support spread to other parts of the city along the predicted contagion paths. Social spillovers are of similar importance as direct exposure. The marches were also polarizing the electorate – in opposition strongholds, they backfired, and gains were concentrated in areas with high Nazi support.

Work in progress

Fighting for Growth. War-Induced Labor Shortages and Technology Adoption during the British Industrial Revolution.

with Alex Trew and Hans-Joachim Voth.

Abstract

Can labor scarcity accelerate labor-saving technological adoption? We examine the effects of military recruitment during the Napoleonic Wars on the adoption of labor-saving technology in England, 1800-1850. Where the Royal Navy recruited more sailors, more machines that economized on (male) labor were adopted. Using depth of the seabed in front of coastal parishes, we show that exogenous shocks to labor scarcity led to technology adoption. This in turn led to both faster structural change as well as technological improvements through learning-by-doing effects.

Pressures to Hire, Productivity and Technology Adoption: Experimental Evidence from Uganda.

with Elisa Macchi.

Abstract

Social norms affect countless economic decisions. While a growing literature shows the importance of norms for labor supply and workers’ productivity, much less is known about the effect of norms on employers’ decisions, labor demand, and the organization of production. We study how social norms to provide employment (“pressures to hire”) affect production in rural Uganda, with a combination of survey and lab-in-the field evidence.

The New Occupations of the Industrial Revolution

with Daron Acemoglu and Hans-Joachim Voth.

Abstract

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)

Abstract

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.

Abstract

Background

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.

Objective

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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.

Abstract

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.

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)

Abstract

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.

Abstract

Background

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.

Objective

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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.

Abstract

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.