Working Papers

"The long-run gains from the early adoption of electricity", [PDF][WP]; Media: ECIPE-Podcast; EHS The Long Run (Job Market Paper)

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, Revise & Resubmit Journal of the European Economic Association

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], Reject & Resubmit Economic Journal

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.

Work in Progress

"Panic politics on the US West Coast", with Nicolas Berman and Jérémy Laurent-Lucchetti [Presented]

Abstract: This study highlights that even individual incidents of conflict causing negligible damage can have considerable political consequences. Using the distance to the Ellwood bombardment, the only shelling of civilian installations on the US mainland during WW2, we find that in counties nearer the incident support for the right-wing Republican challenger increased in the 1942 California gubernatorial election. The location of the submarine attack along the California coast being random and the absence of observable pre-trends suggests that the estimated effect is causal. Further, there is no corresponding effect observed for the two attacks on non-civilian targets during WW2 (the bombardment of Fort Stevens an the Lookout Air Raids). There is a corresponding effect on presidential, house and senate results. The effect appears to persist for a considerable time even after WW2 ended.

"The death of king coal: Industrial decline during childhood and lifetime well-being", with Valeria Rueda [Presented] [EHS]

Abstract: This paper studies the effect of growing up in times of industrial decline on individual health development throughout life. We measure the effect of Britain's coal mining industry decline on the health of individuals born in mining counties. Exploiting data from the two fist cohorts of the UK Longitudinal Studies (1958 and 1970), we observe that mine closures during the age 0-10 lead to lower height throughout a person's life, and lower weight and worse health during childhood. We do not observe this effect to be stronger in families in which the father is a miner. A plausible mechanism for the worse anthropometric outcomes is the general economic hardship experienced in the local area during childhood. Fathers from all occupations are indeed more likely to be unemployed during the individual's early childhood where mines close. The longitudinal nature of our data allows us to overcome a number of key empirical challenges in evaluating the effect over an individual's lifetime. This includes accounting for general differences in local economic development patterns, and family characteristics that have an effect only at later stages of life as well as out-migration from areas affected by the mine closures. Not accounting for these empirical challenges leads to a considerable overestimation of the negative consequences of coal mine closures during early childhood.

"Forbidden love: The impact of banning interracial marriages", with Jade Ponsard and Roberta Ziparo [Presented] [EHS-Video]

Abstract: The majority of US states enacted anti-miscegenation laws at varying points during the 19th and 20th century. These laws made interracial marriages ``prohibited and void'' making them a cornerstone policy of segregation. Exploiting variations in introduction and coverage we study how these laws shaped family structures and reinforced differences in economic outcomes across racial groups. To do this, we combined information on state-level anti-miscegenation laws with longitudinal data from the US censuses (1850-1940). This dataset allows us to follow more than 30 million men over time. Our preliminary results suggest that the implementation of anti-miscegenation laws changed the composition of marriages and increased out-of-state migration of individuals targeted by the laws, in particular individuals in mixed marriages, but also Black men overall. Moreover, codifying race was a key necessity to enforce interracial marriage bans so that miscegenation laws included the blood purity rules. In line with this, we find that racial identity changes of initially Black individuals, a non-negligible phenomenon, declined when miscegenation laws were introduced. Further preliminary explorations suggest that this also had an impact on keeping an exploitative agricultural economic model in place.

"Supporting independence: Political connections and import substitution in India" with Roberto Bonfatti and Cyril Thomson

"Did technology help emancipation? Evidence from Switzerland" with Cecilia García Peñalosa and Edoardo Cefala [Presented]


"Agricultural productivity shocks and poverty in India: The short and long-term effects of monsoon rainfall", with Matthias S. Hertweck, Scandinavian Journal of Economics (2022) [PDF][WP][Replication files]; Media: Mostly Economics Blog. This paper is an extended version of my MSc Thesis.

"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.

General Audience


The long-term effects of technology on economic growth, ECIPE episode 83, June 2022, hosted by Erik van der Marel


Trade, industrialization and support for anti-colonial movements, E-International relations, August 2020, with Roberto Bonfatti

World War I and industrialization in British India, Ideas for India, May 2020, with Roberto Bonfatti