"The past is never dead. It's not even past." William Faulkner.
- “The Mission: Economic Persistence, Human Capital Transmission and Culture in South America.” Quarterly Journal of Economics. Volume 134, Issue 1, February 2019, Pages 507-556.
This article examines the long-term consequences of a historical human capital intervention. The Jesuit order founded religious missions in 1609 among the Guarani, in modern-day Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Before their expulsion in 1767, missionaries instructed indigenous inhabitants in reading, writing, and various crafts. Using archival records, as well as data at the individual and municipal level, I show that in areas of former Jesuit presence—within the Guarani area—educational attainment was higher and remains so (by 10%-15%) 250 years later. These educational differences have also translated into incomes that are 10% higher today. The identification of the positive effect of the Guarani Jesuit missions emerges after comparing them with abandoned Jesuit missions and neighboring Franciscan Guarani missions. The enduring effects observed are consistent with transmission mechanisms of structural transformation, occupational specialization, and technology adoption in agriculture.
- “The Persistence of (Subnational) Fortune” with William F. Maloney. Economic Journal. Volume 126, Issue 598, December 2016. Pages 2363-2401.
Using subnational historical data, this paper establishes the within country persistence of economic activity in the New World over the last half millennium, a period including the trauma of the European colonization, the decimation of the native populations, and the imposition of potentially growth inhibiting institutions. We construct a data set incorporating measures of pre-colonial population density, new measures of present regional per capita income and population, and a comprehensive set of locational fundamentals. These fundamentals are shown to have explanatory power: native populations throughout the hemisphere were found in more livable and productive places. We then show that high pre-colonial density areas tend to be dense today: population agglomerations persist. The data and historical evidence suggest this is due partly to locational fundamentals, but also to classic agglomeration e.ffects: colonialists established settlements near existing native populations for reasons of labor, trade, knowledge and defense. The paper then shows that high density historically prosperous) areas also tend to have higher incomes today, and largely due to agglomeration e.ects: fortune persists for the United States and most of Latin America.
- “Engineering Growth: Innovative Capacity and Development in the Americas.” (Submitted) With William F. Maloney. February 2017.
This paper offers the first systematic historical evidence on the role of a central actor in modern growth theory- the engineer. We collect cross-country and state level data on the population share of engineers for the Americas, and county level data on engineering and patenting for the US at the dawn of the Second Industrial Revolution. These are robustly correlated with income today and remain so after controlling for literacy, other types of higher order human capital (e.g. lawyers, physicians), demand side factors, and instrumenting engineering using the Land Grant Colleges program. A one standard deviation increase in engineers in 1880 accounts for a 16% increase in US county income today, and patenting capacity contributes another 10%. Our estimates also help explain why countries with similar levels of income in 1900, but tenfold differences in engineers diverged in their growth trajectories over the next century. We support the statistical results with historical case studies from the US and Latin America.
Research in Progress
- “Tordesillas, Slavery and the Origins of Brazilian Inequality” with Thomas Fujiwara and Humberto Laudares. Featured in The Marginal Revolution, El Pais, Folha and Il Sole 24 Ore
- “Trust Unraveled: The Long Shadow of the Spanish Civil War” with Ana Tur Prats
- “Christ’s Shadow: Non-Cognitive Skills and Pro-social Behavior Amongst the Guarani” with Hans-Joachim Voth.
- "Collateral Damage: The Legacy of the Secret War in Laos" with Juan Felipe Riaño
- "Country of Women? Repercussions of the War of the Triple Alliance" with Laura Schechter, Jennifer Alix-Garcia and Siyao Jessica Zhu
- “Missionaries in Latin America and Asia: A First Global Mass Education Wave.” Globalization and the Rise of Mass Education. David Mitch and Gabriele Cappelli (Editors). Palgrave, Macmillan. P 61-98. November 2019.
- “Missionaries, human capital transmission and economic persistence in South America.” The Long Economic Shadow of History. Stelios Michalopoulos and Elias Papaioannou (Editors). CEPR / VOXEU. Volume 3, P 29-38. March 2017.
- “The Washington Consensus: Assessing a Damaged Brand” with Nancy Birdsall and Augusto de la Torre. The Oxford Handbook of Latin American Economics. José Antonio Ocampo and Jaime Ros (Editors). Oxford University Press. New York. July 2011.