Working Papers

Political Threat And Racial Propaganda: Evidence From The US

with Max Winkler

Abstract: Can politics motivate propaganda in media? This paper examines the case of the unexpected and short-lived electoral success of the pro-redistribution Populist Party in the 1892 presidential elections. The Populists sought support among poor farmers, regardless of race. This biracial alliance threatened the Democratic establishment in the South, providing it with an incentive to fan racial fears to split the newly formed coalition. Newspapers affiliated with the Democrats spread propaganda of attacks by Blacks on the White community, often involving allegations of sexual assault. Using novel newspaper data, we identify these hate stories and show that they become more prevalent in the years following the 1892 presidential election in counties where the Populists were active. The effect is large and found in newspapers affiliated with the Democrats only. The evidence suggests that the propaganda "worked": where newspapers spread more propaganda, the Democrats see stronger gains in presidential elections in the following decades, long after the Populists left the political arena.

[Ziman Center Working Paper June 2020] [Updated draft coming soon]


Presented: UCLA Anderson, UCLA Economic History Proseminar, Harvard Political Economy Tea*, University of Zurich*, Harvard Government Department, Harvard Economic History Seminar*, NBER SI DAE* (poster presentation), EHA 2020*
* indicates presentation by a co-author



History's Masters: The Effect of European Monarchs on State Performance

with Nico Voigtländer

Abstract: We create a novel reign-level dataset for European monarchs, covering all major European states between the 10th and 18th centuries. We first document a strong positive relationship between rulers’ intellectual capabilities and state-level outcomes. To address endogeneity issues, we exploit the facts that i) rulers were appointed according to primogeniture, independent of their ability, and ii) the wide-spread inbreeding among the ruling dynasties of Europe led to quasi-random variation in ruler ability. We code the degree of blood relationship between the parents of rulers. The ‘coefficient of inbreeding’ is a strong predictor of ruler ability, and the corresponding instrumental variable results imply that ruler ability had a sizeable bearing on the performance of states and their borders. This supports the view that ‘leaders made history,’ shaping the European map until its consolidation into nation states in the 19th century. We also show that rulers mattered only where their power was largely unconstrained. In reigns where parliaments checked the power of monarchs, ruler ability no longer affected their state’s performance. Thus, the strengthening of parliaments in Northern European states (where kin marriage of dynasties was particularly widespread) may have shielded them from the detrimental effects of inbreeding.

[Draft December 2020] [Online Appendix]


Presented: UCLA Anderson, Armenian Economic Association Meeting 2020*






Racist hate stories in local newspapers increase after the People's Party challenges the Democrat incumbents - only in counties where the People's Party received votes in the 1892 presidential election, and only in Democrat-aligned newspapers





More inbred monarchs (as measured by their parents blood relation - the result of centuries of intermarriage among European dynasties) are less capable rulers. We use this as an instrument for the performance of their countries during their rule.