nep-his New Economics Papers
on Business, Economic and Financial History
Issue of 2021‒10‒11
nineteen papers chosen by
Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo
Northumbria University

  1. Pudding, Plague and Education: trade and human capital formation in an agrarian economy By Pantelis Kammas; Argyris Sakalis; Vassilis Sarantides
  2. Land distribution and inequality in a black settler colony: the case of Sierra Leone, 1792–1831 By Galli, Stefania; Rönnbäck, Klas
  3. Nobody’s child: the Bank of Greece in the interwar years By Andreas Kakridis
  4. The urban-rural height gap: Evidence from late nineteenth-century Catalonia By Ramon Ramon-Muñoz; Josep-Maria Ramon-Muñoz
  5. Market Size and Spatial Growth - Evidence from Germany’s Post-War Population Expulsions By Michael Peters
  6. Establishment History Panel 1975-2019 By Ganzer, Andreas; Schmidtlein, Lisa; Stegmaier, Jens; Wolter, Stefanie
  7. Stunting and Wasting in a Growing Economy: Biological Living Standards in Portugal, 1924-1994 By Hugo Cardoso; Alexandra L. Cermeño; Nuno Palma; Renato Pistola
  8. It Takes Money to Make MPs: Evidence from 150 Years of British Campaign Spending By Julia Cage; Edgard Dewitte
  9. The Currency Board Debate of the 1940s-1960s By Thakkar, Parth
  10. Local institutions and pandemics: City autonomy and the Black Death By Han Wang; Andres Rodriguez-Pose;
  11. Unequal entanglements: how arts practitioners reflect on the impact of intensifying economic inequality By Kolbe, Kristina
  12. Sample of Integrated Labour Market Biographies Regional File (SIAB-R) 1975-2019 By Frodermann, Corinna; Ganzer, Andreas; Schmucker, Alexandra; Vom Berge, Philipp
  13. Sorry, We Missed You -Unveiling the XXI st Century Proletarian Life By Fabien Tarrit; Florent Giordano
  14. Economic Growth and Bank Innovation By Gary B. Gorton; Ping He
  15. Structural Change and Productivity Growth in Europe - Past, Present and Future By Georg Duernecker; Miguel Sanchez-Martinez
  16. Soberanía alimentaria en perspectiva histórica. España 1900-2015: Una primera aproximación By Marc Rivas; Xavier Cussó; Gonzalo Gamboa; Josep Pujol-Andreu
  17. Financial bubbles and sustainability of public debt: The case of Spain By Vicente Esteve; María A. Prats
  18. Physics-inspired analysis of the two-class income distribution in the USA in 1983-2018 By Danial Ludwig; Victor M. Yakovenko
  19. Evolution of topics in central bank speech communication By Hansson, Magnus

  1. By: Pantelis Kammas; Argyris Sakalis; Vassilis Sarantides
    Abstract: During the late 19th century, the increasing popularity of pudding in England, along with the outbreak of phylloxera plague in French vineyards had an unintended effect in the agrarian economy of Greece. In particular, these events escalated the international demand and production of currants in Greece during the 1870s, causing an unprecedented positive shock that was transmitted through trade in the agricultural population. Using novel data from historical archives, we explore how this exogenous event affected investment towards human capital. Consistent with expectations, in an agrarian economy that specializes in unskilled labour-intensive agricultural goods, this shock had a negative effect on human capital formation.
    Keywords: Education; Fertility; Agriculture; International Trade
    Date: 2021–10
  2. By: Galli, Stefania; Rönnbäck, Klas
    Abstract: Land distribution is considered to be one of the main contributors to inequality in pre-industrial societies. This article contributes to the debate on the origins of economic inequality in pre-industrial African societies by studying land inequality at a particularly early stage of African economic history. The research examines land distribution and inequality in land ownership among settlers in the Colony of Sierra Leone for three benchmark years over the first 40 years of its existence. The findings show that land inequality was low at the founding of the Colony but increased substantially over time. We suggest that this increase was enabled by a shift in the type of egalitarianism pursued by the colonial authorities, which was reflected in a change in the redistributive policy applied, which allowed later settlers to appropriate land more freely than had been previously possible.
    JEL: N57
    Date: 2021–02–01
  3. By: Andreas Kakridis (Bank of Greece and Ionian University)
    Abstract: Neither history nor economic historians have been kind to Greece’s central bank in the interwar years. Born at the behest of the League of Nations to help the country secure a new international loan, the Bank of Greece was treated with a mixture of suspicion and hostility. The onset of the Great Depression pitted its statutory objective to defend the exchange rate against the incentive to reflate the domestic economy. Its policy response has generally been criticized as either ineffectual or detrimental: the Bank is accused of having pursued an unduly orthodox and restrictive policy, both during but also after the country’s exit from the gold exchange standard, some going as far as to argue that the 1932 devaluation failed to produce genuine recovery. Relying primarily on archival material, this paper combines qualitative and quantitative sources to revisit the Bank of Greece’s birth and operation during the Great Depression. In doing so, it hopes to put Greece on the map of international comparisons of the Great Depression and debates on the role of the League of Nations, the effectiveness of money doctoring and foreign policy interventions more generally. What is more, the paper seeks to revise several aspects of the conventional narrative surrounding the Bank’s role. First, it argues that monetary policy was neither as ineffective nor as restrictive as critics suggest; this was largely thanks to a continued trickle of foreign lending, but also to the Bank’s own decision to sterilize foreign exchange outflows, thus breaking the ‘rules of the game’. Second, it revisits Greece’s attempt to cling to gold after sterling’s devaluation, a decision routinely denounced as a critical policy mistake. Last but not least, it challenges the notion that Greece constitutes an exception to the rule that wants countries who shed their ‘golden fetters’ recovering faster.
    Keywords: central bank; Greece;gold standard; Great Depression; League of Nations
    JEL: E58 E65 N14 N24
    Date: 2021–07
  4. By: Ramon Ramon-Muñoz; Josep-Maria Ramon-Muñoz
    Abstract: This paper aims to establish whether there was a gap in biological living standards between rural and urban areas in late nineteenth-century Catalonia, and if so, to determine its extent. The study makes use of a large new dataset based on military records for the cohort of males born in the year 1890 and enlisted in the year 1911. By combining individual heights with information at municipal level, we conclude that the 1890 cohort of conscripts living in rural areas were shorter than those that resided in towns and cities with populations of more than 20,000 people. We also hypothesize about the reasons why urban dwellers in late nineteenth-century Catalonia were taller than their rural counterparts.
    Keywords: biological living standards, well-being, urban penalty, urban premium
    JEL: N33 N93 I14 I31
    Date: 2021–09
  5. By: Michael Peters
    Abstract: Virtually all theories of economic growth predict a positive relationship between population size and productivity. In this paper I study a particular historical episode to provide direct evidence for the empirical relevance of such scale effects. In the aftermath of the Second World War about 8m ethnic Germans were expelled from their domiciles in Eastern Europe and transferred to West Germany. This inflow increased the German population by almost 20%. Using variation across counties I show that the settlement of refugees had a large and persistent effect on the size of the local population, manufacturing employment and income per capita. I show that these findings are quantitatively consistent with an idea-based model of spatial growth if population mobility is subject to frictions and productivity spillovers occur locally. The model implies that the refugee settlement increased aggregate income per capita by about 12% after 25 years and that the historical settlement rule triggered persistent industrialization of rural areas.
    JEL: O11 O4 R11
    Date: 2021–10
  6. By: Ganzer, Andreas (Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany); Schmidtlein, Lisa (Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany); Stegmaier, Jens (Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany); Wolter, Stefanie (Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany)
    Abstract: "The Establishment History Panel (BHP) is composed of cross sectional datasets since 1975 for West Germany and 1992 for East Germany. Every cross section contains all the establishments in Germany which are covered by the IAB Employment History (BeH) on June 30th. These are all establishments with at least one employee liable to social security on the reference date. Establishments with no employee liable to social security but with at least one marginal part-time employee are included since 1999. The cross sections can be combined to form a panel. This data report describes the Establishment History Panel (BHP) 1975-2019." (Author's abstract, IAB-Doku) ((en))
    Keywords: Bundesrepublik Deutschland ; Datenaufbereitung ; Datenqualität ; Datenzugang ; IAB-Betriebs-Historik-Panel ; Datenanonymisierung ; Datensatzbeschreibung ; Imputationsverfahren ; Stichprobe ; 1975-2019
    Date: 2020–12–18
  7. By: Hugo Cardoso; Alexandra L. Cermeño; Nuno Palma; Renato Pistola
    Abstract: Portugal's real income per head grew by a factor of eight during the second half of the twentieth century, a period of fast convergence towards Western European standards of living. We use a new sample of about 2,000 children to document trends in the prevalence of stunting and wasting in the city of Lisbon between 1945 and 1994. We find that stunting and wasting fell quickly in the 1950s and 1960s. This happened for males and females, and for infants (0 to 36 months of age) as well as children (2 to 10 years of age). We additionally use a sample of 17,000 young adult males covering the entire country which shows a similar decrease in the incidence of wasting and stunting, with the expected time lag. We discuss these trends in relation to changes in income and public policy which affected the ontogenetic environment of children.
    JEL: I15 N34 O15
    Date: 2021–10
  8. By: Julia Cage (Département d'économie); Edgard Dewitte (Département d'économie)
    Abstract: We study electoral campaigns over the long run, through the lens of their spending. In particular, we ask whether changing media technologies and electoral environments impacted patterns of spending and their correlation with electoral results. To do so, we build a novel exhaustive dataset on general elections in the United Kingdom from 1857 to 2017, which includes information on campaign spending (itemized by expense categories), electoral outcomes and socio-demographic characteristics for 69, 042 election-constituency candidates. We start by providing new insights on the history of British political campaigns, in particular the growing importance of advertising material, including via digital means, to the detriment of paid staff and electoral meetings. We then show that there is a strong positive correlation between expenditures and votes, and that overall the magnitude of this relationship has strongly increased since the 1880s, with a peak in the last quarter of the 20th century. We link these transformations to changes in the conduct of campaigns, and to the introduction of new information technologies. We show in particular that the expansion of local radio and broadband Internet increased the sensitivity of the electoral results to differences in campaign spending. These results encourage greater contextualization in the drafting of campaign finance regulations.
    Keywords: Elections; Campaign finance; Electoral expenditures; Information technologies
    JEL: D72 P48 H7
    Date: 2021–09
  9. By: Thakkar, Parth (The Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise)
    Abstract: The late 1940s to the 1960s featured a sustained debate about currency boards in underdeveloped (or, in today’s parlance, developing) economies and their desirability compared to the alternative of central banking. Critics of currency boards found fault with them for the foregone cost of their “idle reserves,” their implied deflationary bias, their lack of discretionary monetary policy, and their lack of a lender of last resort, among other things. Defenders of the currency board system argued that the criticisms were either incorrect or irrelevant. After carefully reviewing the debate, I opine on it, coming down mainly on the side of the defenders of currency boards.
    Keywords: Currency board; debate
    JEL: B27 E59 F33 N10
    Date: 2021–10
  10. By: Han Wang; Andres Rodriguez-Pose;
    Abstract: Local institutions have long been regarded as key drivers of economic development. However, little is known about the role of institutions in preparing places to cope with public health crises and pandemics. This paper sheds light on how the nature of a local institution, city autonomy, influenced variations in the incidence of the Black Death —possibly the worst pandemic ever recorded— across cities in Western Europe between 1347 and 1352. We examine urban autonomy not only because it represented a major political shift in medieval times, but because, more importantly, it also represents a key prototype of modern political institutions. By exploiting data on the spatial variation of Black Death’s mortality rates and duration using OLS and 2SLS methods, we uncover that city autonomy reduced mortality rates by, on average, almost 10 percent. Autonomous cities were in a better position to adopt swift and efficient measures against the pandemic than those governed by remote kings and emperors. This relationship has been confirmed by a series of placebo tests and robustness checks. In contrast, there is no evidence to suggest that city autonomy was a factor in reducing the duration of the pandemic in European cities.
    Keywords: Local institutions, pandemics, city autonomy, Black Death, Europe
    JEL: N43 N93 O17
    Date: 2021–09
  11. By: Kolbe, Kristina
    Abstract: This article discusses how arts practitioners reflect on their work amidst deepening economic inequality. Given the renewed interest in the social role of arts institutions under conditions of financialised neo-liberalism, the paper traces the complex ways in which economic imperatives figure in cultural practice. Drawing on interviews with UK-based gallery directors, museum curators, art consultants, and artists, I map out how austerity politics and intensifying privatisation processes have a profound impact on the workings of the sector, how they recalibrate dynamics between private and public artworlds, and how they shape processes of production and curation. My data specifically document how increasing economic precarity brings into relief structural inequalities of gender, race and (post)-colonial legacies already manifesting in the artworld. Rather than understanding austerity as a financial condition only, the paper thus presents an empirical exploration of the wider inequalities that it has exacerbated, from arts funding to institutions’ programming practices.
    Keywords: art institutions; austerity; creative labour; cultural policy; inequality; museums; Marshall Institute
    JEL: N0
    Date: 2021–09–14
  12. By: Frodermann, Corinna (Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany); Ganzer, Andreas (Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany); Schmucker, Alexandra (Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany); Vom Berge, Philipp (Institute for Employment Research (IAB), Nuremberg, Germany)
    Abstract: "This data report describes the “Regional File” of the Sample of Integrated Labour Market Biographies (SIAB-R) 1975 - 2019. This dataset represents the factually anonymous version of the Sample of Integrated Labour Market Biographies (SIAB) and may be transmitted to scientific research institutions after concluding a use agreement with the IAB." (Author's abstract, IAB-Doku) ((en))
    Keywords: Bundesrepublik Deutschland ; Stichprobe der Integrierten Arbeitsmarktbiografien (SIAB) ; Datenaufbereitung ; Datenqualität ; Datenanonymisierung ; Datensatzbeschreibung ; 1975-2017
    Date: 2021–07–02
  13. By: Fabien Tarrit (REGARDS - Recherches en Économie Gestion AgroRessources Durabilité Santé- EA 6292 - MSH-URCA - Maison des Sciences Humaines de Champagne-Ardenne - URCA - Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne - URCA - Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne); Florent Giordano (REGARDS - Recherches en Économie Gestion AgroRessources Durabilité Santé- EA 6292 - MSH-URCA - Maison des Sciences Humaines de Champagne-Ardenne - URCA - Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne - URCA - Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne)
    Abstract: Please Mister Postman, look and see Is there a letter, a letter for me I've been standin' here waitin' Mister Postman So patiently, for just a card, or just a letter Sayin' he's returnin' home to me The Marvelettes (1961) Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living (Marx, 1852, p. 23).
    Date: 2021–09–14
  14. By: Gary B. Gorton; Ping He
    Abstract: Based on archival and survey data we show that the maturity of U.S. business loans has been continuously increasing since the mid-1930s when banks invented the term loan. Concurrently, bank innovation first involved the invention of credit analysis and covenant design. Later, bank innovation included the advent of loan sales, increased loan syndications, the opening of the leveraged loan market, and the securitization of loans in collateralized loan obligations. We estimate and calibrate a model of bank innovation to determine the quantitative contribution of bank innovation to economic growth.
    JEL: O0 O11 O30 O43
    Date: 2021–10
  15. By: Georg Duernecker; Miguel Sanchez-Martinez
    Abstract: This paper studies the effect of structural change on the historical path of aggregate labor productivity growth for a large sample of European countries, and it builds a quantitative multi-sector growth model to analyze the potential impact that structural change may have on future productivity growth. We document that the observed reallocation of economic activity since the 1970s towards the service sector has exerted a strongly negative effect on aggregate productivity growth in most European countries. Moreover, we perform a quantitative analysis to show that the expected path of structural change might continue to have a sizable dent on future productivity growth in Europe. By contrast, the impact in the U.S. is expected to rapidly diminish. We show that this differential result can be explained by the large expansion, in Europe, of certain service sub-sectors characterized by stagnant productivity.
    Keywords: structural change, productivity growth, Baumol’s cost disease, service sector, European Union
    JEL: O41 O47 O52
    Date: 2021
  16. By: Marc Rivas (Departament d'Economia i d'Història Econòmica, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona); Xavier Cussó (Departament d'Economia i d'Història Econòmica, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona); Gonzalo Gamboa (Departament d'Economia i d'Història Econòmica, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona); Josep Pujol-Andreu (Departament d'Economia i d'Història Econòmica, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
    Abstract: El objetivo de este trabajo es realizar una primera aproximación al análisis de la evolución de la soberanía alimentaria en España desde 1900 hasta nuestros días. Un periodo caracterizado por las grandes transformaciones experimentadas por los sistemas agroalimentarios a escala local y global. Para ello hemos definido con el máximo rigor el concepto de soberanía alimentaria e identificado aquellos indicadores disponibles más representativos de los distintos aspectos que caracterizan el concepto. Cronológicamente, hemos distinguido dos grandes etapas en función del contexto económico, político y tecnológico dominante, y en función de los datos disponibles, su homogeneidad y su comparabilidad en el tiempo y con los de otros países de nuestro entorno: 1900-1960 y 1961-2015. Finalmente, hemos concluido que la población española, como conjunto de productores, transformadores, distribuidores y consumidores, ha sufrido a largo plazo una constante erosión de su soberanía alimentaria, aunque la naturaleza de los factores que han provocado esta pérdida de soberania ha cambiado y evolucionado notablemente en el tiempo.
    Keywords: Soberanía alimentaria, seguridad alimentaria, sistema agroalimentario, transición nutricional, España 1900-2015.
    JEL: L66 N54 Q13 Q15 Q16 Q18 Q56
    Date: 2019–12
  17. By: Vicente Esteve (Universidad de Valencia and Universidad de Alcalá, Spain); María A. Prats (Universidad de Murcia, Spain)
    Abstract: In this paper the dynamics of the Spanish public debt-GDP ratio is analysed during the period 1850-2020. We use a recent procedure to test for recurrent explosive behaviour (Phillips, Wu and Yu, 2011, and Phillips, Shi and Yu, 2015a, 2015b) in order to identify episodes of explosive public debt dynamics and also the episodes of fiscal adjustments over this long period.
    Keywords: Public debt; Fiscal sustainability; Explosiveness; Recursive unit root test; Spain; COVID-19
    JEL: C12 C22 E62 H62 H63
    Date: 2021–09
  18. By: Danial Ludwig; Victor M. Yakovenko
    Abstract: The first part of this paper is a brief survey of the approaches to economic inequality based on ideas from statistical physics and kinetic theory. These include the Boltzmann kinetic equation, the time-reversal symmetry, the ergodicity hypothesis, entropy maximization, and the Fokker-Planck equation. The origins of the exponential Boltzmann-Gibbs distribution and the Pareto power law are discussed in relation to additive and multiplicative stochastic processes. The second part of the paper analyzes income distribution data in the USA for the time period 1983-2018 using a two-class decomposition. We present overwhelming evidence that the lower class (more than 90% of the population) is described by the exponential distribution, whereas the upper class (about 4% of the population in 2018) by the power law. We show that the significant growth of inequality during this time period is due to the sharp increase in the upper-class income share, whereas relative inequality within the lower class remains constant. We speculate that the expansion of the upper-class population and income shares may be due to increasing digitization and non-locality of the economy in the last 40 years.
    Date: 2021–10
  19. By: Hansson, Magnus (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)
    Abstract: This paper studies the content of central bank speech communication from 1997 through 2020 and asks the following questions: (i) What global topics do central banks talk about? (ii) How do these topics evolve over time? I turn to natural language processing, and more specifically Dynamic Topic Models, to answer these questions. The analysis consists of an aggregate study of nine major central banks and a case study of the Federal Reserve, which allows for region specific control variables. I show that: (i) Central banks address a broad range of topics. (ii) The topics are well captured by Dynamic Topic Models. (iii) The global topics exhibit strong and significant autoregressive properties not easily explained by financial control variables.
    Keywords: Central bank communication; Monetary policy; Textual analysis; Dynamic topic models; Narratives
    JEL: C38 C55 E52 E58
    Date: 2021–10

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