The New Poor Law reform of 1834 induced dramatic and heterogeneous reductions in welfare spending across English and Welsh counties. Using the reform in a difference-in-differences instrumental variables strategy, we document a robust negative relationship between the generosity of welfare provision and criminal activity. Results are driven by non-violent property crimes and are stronger during months of seasonal agricultural unemployment, highlighting the particularly criminogenic combination of welfare cuts and precarious work opportunities for the economically vulnerable.
Creating ‘Us and Them’: Racial Propaganda and Right-Wing Voting in Interwar Sweden [link]
revise and resubmit at The Economic Journal
I explore the political impact of the State Institute for Race Biology in interwar Sweden. Results of an anthropometric classification of the Swedish population according to pseudo-scientific notions of “Nordic purity” were disseminated in a propagandistic text. I find that, following the publication, districts deemed particularly “pure” exhibited relatively higher vote shares for right-wing parties catering to race-biological ideas. Insularity (low levels of immigration) and information (good access to libraries and newspaper media) are important moderators of this effect. Race-biological ideas appear to have been absorbed locally via direct correspondence with the Institute. My findings indicate that propaganda campaigns can shape political preferences, particularly when such campaigns make salient and speak directly to identity.
Between 1881 and 1910, Swedish society underwent two transformative developments: the large-scale roll-out of a national railway network and the nascence of grassroots social movements which came to dominate economic, social and political spheres well into the twentieth century. Using exogenous variation in railway access arising from initial plans for the network, I show that as localities became better-connected, they were more likely to host a local movement and saw more rapid membership growth and a greater number of distinct organisations. The mobility of individuals is a key mechanism: results are driven by passenger arrivals into connected localities, not freight arrivals. I implement a market access framework to show that, by reducing least-cost distances between localities, railways intensified the influence exerted by neighbouring concentrations of membership, thereby enabling social movement spread. Subsequently — in Sweden’s first election with universal male suffrage in 1911 — localities with greater social movement mobilisation exhibited higher turnout and Social Democrat vote shares.
We provide causal evidence for the role of conflicts in the development of medieval constitutionalism and document the long shadow of this institutional development on the rise of modern states in Central Europe. Using novel data on the universe of German cities between 1290 and 1710 and an identification strategy relying on the gender of the firstborn children of local nobles, we show that: 1) conflicts resulted in more representative and elected city councils, 2) conflicts led to the development of local fiscal capacity, 3) territories with higher fiscal capacity were those that greatly expanded after the Military Revolution.
Brexit and the Blitz: Conflict, Collective Memory and Euroscepticism
Voting Power and the Press: Evidence from US Newspapers
(with Julia Cagé, Guilhem Cassan and James M. Snyder)
Book Review: Race and the Undeserving Poor by Robbie Shilliam, Economic History Review, 72(2), 2019 [link]