Working Papers

"The long-run gains from the early adoption of electricity", [PDF][WP]; Media: EHS The Long Run

Abstract: This paper explores the effect of the early adoption of technology on local economic development. While timing and intensity of technology adoption are key drivers of economic divergence across countries, the initial impact of new technologies within advanced countries has been incredibly illusive. Resolving this puzzle, this paper documents that the early adoption of electricity across Switzerland was conducive to local economic development not just in the short-run, but also in the long-run. Exploiting exogenous variation in the potential to produce electricity from waterpower, this paper finds that electricity adoption at the end of the 19th century led to local differences in structural transformation. However, despite access to electricity becoming quickly universal in the early 20th century, due to the expansion of the electricity grid, economic development did not converge across areas. Instead, areas which adopted electricity early continue to be more industrialized and have higher incomes today. In particular, the geographical distribution of the newly emerging and innovative chemical industry was shaped by early electricity adoption, while employment gains through the building and operation of new power plants themselves were mostly short-lived. The main mechanism through which differences in economic development persist in the long-run is through increased human capital accumulation and innovation, rather than persistent differences in the way electricity is used.

"Trade disruption, industrialisation, and the setting sun of British colonial rule in India", with Roberto Bonfatti, CesIfo Working Paper No.8461, [PDF][WP]; Media: E-IR, Ideas for India, Indian Strategic Studies, EEA press release

Abstract: Colonial trade encouraged the colonies to specialise in primary products. Did this prevent industrialisation in the colonies? And did lack of industrialisation, in turn, help to keep the colonies under control? To answer these questions, we examine the impact of the temporary collapse in trade between Britain and India due to World War I, on industrialisation and anti-imperial feelings in India. Exploiting cross-district variation in exposure to the trade shock stemming from initial differences in industrial specialisation, we find that districts more exposed to the trade shock experienced substantially faster industrial growth in 1911-21, placing them on a higher level of industrialisation which has persisted up to today. Using the World War I trade shock as an instrument for industrialisation levels, we also find that more industrialised districts were more likely to express anti-imperial feelings in 1922, and to vote for the Indian National Congress in the landmark election of 1937. These results suggest that colonial trade may have played an important role in preventing colonial industrialisation, and in embedding foreign rule.

"The Effect of Recent Technological Change on U.S. Immigration Policy: Evidence from Congressional Roll Call Votes" CesIfo Working Paper No.9302 [PDF][WP]

Abstract: Did recent technological change, in the form of automation, affect immigration policy in the United States? I argue that as automation shifted employment from routine to manual occupations at the bottom end of the skill distribution, it increased competition between natives and immigrants, consequently leading to increased support for restricting low-skill immigration. I formalise this hypothesis theoretically in a partial equilibrium model with constant elasticity of substitution in which technology leads to employment polarization, and policy makers can vote on immigration legislation. I empirically evaluate these predictions by analysing voting on low-skill immigration bills in the House of Representatives during the period 1973-2014. First, I find evidence that policy makers who represent congressional districts with a higher share of manual employment are more likely to support restricting low-skill immigration. Second, I provide empirical evidence that representatives of districts which experienced more manual biased technological change are more likely to support restricting low-skill immigration. Finally, I provide evidence that automation did not affect trade policy, which is in line with automation having increased employment in occupations exposed to low-skill immigration, but not those exposed to international trade.

"The consequences of a trade collapse: Economics and politics in Weimar Germany", with Giovanni Facchini [Draft available on request]

Abstract: What was the economic and political effect of the trade collapse during the Great Depression? Using novel micro-level data we find causal evidence that the decline in German exports considerably contributed to the decline in economic activity and employment during the Great Depression, accounting for example for 23% of the total observed decline in output. However, we do not observe a corresponding increase in extremist voting due to exposure to the export shock. Instead at the average level of exposure to the export decline the Nazi vote share increased by 1.4% less compared to areas not experiencing a decline in exports. This appears to be due to Nazi economic policies of autarky, abolishing unemployment benefits and public work programs being particularly unappealing to white-collar workers affected by the decline in exports. In contrast, the decline in exports increased blue-collar workers support for the Nazi party for which the policy of "work and bread" through manual labour intensive public works was much more likely to provide some economic relief. Further, we find that the decline in German exports had negative spillovers onto agriculture where the decline in food prices seems to have increased the Nazi vote share.

Pre-PhD Papers

"The extension of short-time work schemes during the Great Recession: A story of success?", (with Matthias S. Hertweck), Macroeconomic Dynamics 24 (2020): 360-402. [PDF] [WP]. This paper is an extended version of my BSc Thesis, written under the supervision of Matthias S. Hertweck.

"Agricultural productivity shocks and poverty in India: The short and long-term effects of monsoon rainfall", (with Matthias S. Hertweck), R&R Scandinavian Journal of Economics [PDF] [WP]; Media: Mostly Economics Blog. This paper is an extended version of my MSc Thesis, written under the supervision of Matthias S. Hertweck.