Welcome to my personal website.

I am a Professor of Economic History at the University of Cologne, a Member in the Cluster of Excellence ECONtribute: Markets & Public Policy, a CESifo Research Fellow, a CEPR Research Affiliate, a CAGE Research Fellow, an Editorial Board member at The Journal of Economic History and Explorations in Economic History, and an Associate Editor at The Economic Journal.

My research focuses on economic history and long-run development. In my studies, I analyze historically important events and factors that determine differences in development over time and across space. Specifically, I am interested in the consequences of institutional reforms such as the implementation of mandatory health insurance, the abolition of labor coercion, or the extension of political franchise. Additionally, I am interested in patterns of knowledge and technology diffusion in physical and social networks. A large part of my work focuses on the economic development of the German state of Prussia during the 18th and 19th centuries - a period of fundamental changes in the transition of sustained growth. Using Prussia as a laboratory, I can typically draw on rich administrative data, digitized from Prussian censuses originally collected by the statistical office. Such detailed data allow the application of econometric methods aimed understanding more about the direction of causality in the relationships under analysis.

University of CologneCenter for Macroeconomic ResearchAlbertus-Magnus-Platz50923 Cologne, Germany


Work in Progress

Rewriting the Social Contract: Elite Response to Labor Unrest (with Carola Stapper and Noam Yuchtman), in progress.

Industrialization and the Return to Labor: Evidence from Prussia (with Ann-Kristin Becker), in progress.

Working Papers

The Political Effects of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Weimar Germany (with Stefan Bauernschuster, Matthias Blum and Christoph Koenig)
CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18277, CESifo Working Paper No. 10531, CAGE Working Paper No. 666 , ECONtribute Discussion Paper No. 241
Policy column at VoxEU

How do health crises affect election results? We combine a panel of election results from 1893--1933 with spatial heterogeneity in excess mortality due to the 1918 Influenza to assess the pandemic's effect on voting behavior across German constituencies. Applying a dynamic differences-in-differences approach, we find that areas with higher influenza mortality saw a lasting shift towards left-wing parties. We argue that pandemic intensity increased the salience of public health policy, prompting voters to reward parties signaling competence in health issues. Alternative explanations such as pandemic-induced economic hardship, punishment of incumbents for inadequate policy responses, or polarization of the electorate towards more extremist parties are not supported by our findings.

NAFTA and drug-related violence in Mexico (with Eduardo Hidalgo and Pablo Selaya)
R&R at Journal of Development Economics

CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17608, CESifo Working Paper No. 9981, CAGE Working Paper No. 640, ECONtribute Discussion Paper No. 196
Summary in CAGE Advantage

We study how NAFTA changed the geography of violence in Mexico. We propose that open borders increased trafficking profits of Mexican cartels and resulted in violent competition among them. We test this hypothesis by comparing changes in drug-related homicides after NAFTA's introduction in 1994 across municipalities with and without drug-trafficking routes. Routes are optimal paths connecting municipalities with a recent history of drug trafficking with U.S. ports of entry. On these routes, homicides increase by 27% relative to the pre-NAFTA mean. These results cannot be explained by changes in worker's opportunity costs of using violence resulting from the trade shock.

Flow of Ideas: Economic Societies and the Rise of Useful Knowledge (with Francesco Cinnirella and Julius Koschnick)
R&R at Economic Journal

CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17442, CESifo Working Paper No. 9836, CAGE Working Paper No. 632, ECONtribute Discussion Paper No. 175
Policy column at VoxEU 

Economic societies emerged during the late eighteenth-century. We argue that these institutions reduced the costs of accessing useful knowledge by adopting, producing, and diffusing new ideas. Combining location information for the universe of 3,300 members across active economic societies in Germany with those of patent holders and World's Fair exhibitors, we show that regions with more members were more innovative in the late nineteenth-century. This long-lasting effect of societies arguably arose through agglomeration economies and localized knowledge spillovers. To support this claim, we provide evidence suggesting an immediate increase in manufacturing, an earlier establishment of vocational schools, and a higher density of highly skilled mechanical workers by mid-nineteenth century in regions with more members. We also show that regions with members from the same society had higher similarity in patenting, suggesting that social networks facilitated spatial knowledge diffusion and, to some extent, shaped the geography of innovation.

Structural Change, Elite Capitalism, and the Emergence of Labor Emancipation (with Quamrul Ashraf, Francesco Cinnirella, Oded Galor, and Boris Gershman)
R&R at Review of Economic Studies

CESifo Working Paper No. 6423, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 12822, earlier circulated as 'Capital-Skill Complementarity and the Emergence of Labor Emancipation'
Watch a talk at Quantitative History Webinar Series

This paper advances a novel hypothesis regarding the historical roots of labor emancipation. It argues that the decline of coercive labor institutions in the industrial phase of development has been an inevitable by-product of the intensification of capital-skill complementarity in the production process. In light of the growing significance of skilled labor for fostering the return to physical capital, elites in society were induced to relinquish their historically profitable coercion of labor in favor of employing free skilled workers, thereby incentivizing the masses to engage in broad-based human capital acquisition, without fear of losing their skill premium to expropriation. In line with the proposed hypothesis, exploiting a plausibly exogenous source of variation in proto-industrialization across regions of nineteenth-century Prussia, the initial abundance of elite-owned physical capital that also came to be associated with skill-intensive industrialization is shown to have contributed to the subsequent intensity of de facto serf emancipation.

Articles in Refereed Journals

Religious Practice and Student Performance: Evidence from Ramadan Fasting (with Guido Schwerdt and Maurizio Strazzeri)
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 205, 2023, 100-119 [DOI]
Policy columns at VoxEU and Ökonomenstimme, Covered at The National News

Roman Transport Network Connectivity and Economic Integration (with Matthias Flückiger, Mario Larch, Markus Ludwig, and Allard Mees),
Review of Economic Studies, 89(2), 2022, 774-810 [DOI] [Data]
Policy column at VoxEU, newspaper coverage by FAZ, watch a talk at Quantitative History Webinar Series

The Political Economy of the Prussian Three-class Franchise (with Sascha O. Becker)
Journal of Economic History, 80(4), 2020, 1143-1188 [DOI] [Data]
Policy column at VoxEU

Bismarck's Health Insurance and the Mortality Decline (with Stefan Bauernschuster and Anastasia Driva)
Journal of the European Economic Association, 18(5), 2020, 2561-2607 [DOI] [Data]
Policy column at VoxEU, mentioned at Smithsonian.com

Landownership Concentration and the Expansion of Education (with Francesco Cinnirella)
Journal of Development Economics, 121, 2016, 135-152 [DOI] [Data]

Railroads and Growth in Prussia
Journal of the European Economic Association, 13(4), 2015, 699-736 [DOI] [Data]

iPEHD - The ifo Prussian Economic History Database (with Sascha O. Becker, Francesco Cinnirella, Ludger Woessmann)
Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, 47(2), 2014, 57-66 [DOI]
Access the iPEHD here

Immigration and the Diffusion of Technology: The Huguenot Diaspora in Prussia
American Economic Review, 104(1), 2014, 84-122 [DOI] [Data]
Discussed at 'A Fine Theorem', Featured in World Bank's JDC Quarterly Digest
Reprinted in Knortz, H. and M. Schulte Beerbühl (eds.) Migrationsforschung - interdisziplinär & diskursiv

Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revolution (with Sascha O. Becker, Ludger Woessmann)
American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 3(3), 2011, 92-126 [DOI] [Data]
Policy columns at VoxEU and Ökonomenstimme