Land Reform and Productivity: Evidence from the Dissolution of French Monasteries
This article uses the confiscation and auction of monastic properties during the French Revolution to assess the effects of land reallocation on agricultural productivity. To proxy for monastic landholdings, I construct a novel dataset using the annual income and location of more than 1,500 French monasteries in 1768. I perform several cross-checking analyses and demonstrate the validity of the data as a proxy for monastic landholdings both at the monastery and arrondissement levels. I show that arrondissements with greater land real- location experienced higher levels of agricultural productivity in the mid-19th century. I trace these increases in productivity to the creation of larger and less fragmented farms, leading to an increase in mechanization and the substitution of family labor with a hired specialized labor force.
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Speed of Convergence in a Malthusian World: Weak or Strong Homeostasis?
The Malthusian trap is a well recognized source of stagnation in per capita income prior to industrialization. However, previous studies have found mixed evidence about its exact strength. This article contributes to this ongoing debate, by estimating the speed of convergence for a wide range of economies and a large part of the Malthusian era. I build a simple Malthusian growth model and derive the speed of convergence to the steady state. A calibration exercise for the English Malthusian economy reveals a relatively weak Malthusian trap, or weak homeostasis, with a half-life of 112 years. I then use beta-convergence regressions and historical panel data on per capita income and population to empirically estimate the speed of convergence for a large set of countries. I find consistent evidence of weak homeostasis, with the mode of half-lives around 120 years. The weak homeostasis pattern is stable from the 11th to the 18th century. However, I highlight significant differences in the strength of the Malthusian trap, with some economies converging significantly faster or slower than others.
Latest Draft Working Paper
Access to Justice and Economic Development: Evidence from an International Panel Dataset
This paper evaluates the importance of access to justice (ATJ) for economic growth. We create a new database on the number of professional judges per 100,000 inhabitants by collecting data from various public institutions. We draw on these data as a macro-level proxy capturing the fundamental and historical evolution of ATJ from 1970 to 2014 for a wide range of developed and developing countries. Using an instrumental variable approach in a dynamic panel setting to deal with endogeneity, we show that ATJ is a positive and significant determinant of economic growth. The substantial aggregate effect of ATJ is inversely related to the initial level of income per capita, human capital, democracy, economic freedom, and the rule of law. These results hint at a stronger impact of ATJ on economic development in less developed societies. In terms of mechanisms, our results suggest that ATJ promotes growth via higher government accountability and improved quality of institutions.
Latest Draft Working Paper Adam Levai Michèle Schmiegelow