Suffrage, labour markets and coalitions in colonial Virginia



Abstract: We study Virginia’s suffrage from the early-17th century until the American Revolution using an analytical narrative and econometric analysis of unique data on franchise restrictions. First, we hold that suffrage changes reflected labour market dynamics. Indeed, Virginia’s liberal institutions initially served to attract indentured servants from England who were needed in the labour-intensive tobacco farming but deteriorated once worker demand subsided and planters replaced white workers with slaves. Second, we argue that Virginia’s suffrage was also the result of political bargaining influenced by shifting societal coalitions. We show that new politically influential coalitions of freemen and then of small and large slave-holding farmers emerged in the second half of the 17th and early-18th centuries, respectively. These coalitions were instrumental in reversing the earlier democratic institution\s. Our main contribution stems from integrating the labour markets and bargaining/coalitions arguments, thus proving a novel theoretical and empirical explanation for institutional change.

Secular Stagnation? The Effect of Aging on Economic Growth in the Age of Automation



Abstract: Several recent theories emphasize the negative effects of an aging population on economic growth, either because of the lower labor force participation and productivity of older workers or because aging will create an excess of savings over desired investment, leading to secular stagnation. We show that there is no such negative relationship in the data. If anything, countries experiencing more rapid aging have grown more in recent decades. We suggest that this counterintuitive finding might reflect the more rapid adoption of automation technologies in countries undergoing more pronounced demographic changes, and provide evidence and theoretical underpinnings for this argument.

Historical Prevalence of Infectious Diseases, Cultural Values, and the Origins of Economic Institutions


KYKLOS, Volume 70, Issue 1

Abstract: It is widely believed that economic institutions such as competitive markets, the banking system, and the structure of property rights are essential for economic development. But why economic institutions vary across countries and what are their deep origins is still a question that is widely debated in the developmental economics literature. In this study, we provide an empirical test for the provocative hypothesis that the prevalence of infectious diseases influenced the formation of personality traits, cultural values, and even morality at the regional level (the so called Parasite- Stress Theory of Values and Sociality), which then shaped economic institutions across countries. Using the prevalence of pathogens as an instrument for cultural traits such as individualism, we show in a two-stage least squares analysis that various economic institutions, measured by different areas of the index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation, have their deep origins in the historical prevalence of infectious diseases across countries. Our causal identification strategy suggests that cultural values affect economic institutions even after controlling for a number of confounding variables, geographic controls, and for different sub-samples of countries. We further show that the results are robust to four alternative measures of economic and political institutions.

Covenants without the Sword? Comparing Prison Self-Governance Globally



Abstract: Why does prison social order vary around the world? While many of the basic characteristics of prisons are similar globally, the extent and form of informal inmate organization varies substantially. This article develops a governance theory of prison social order. Inmates create extralegal governance institutions when official governance is insufficient. The size and demographics of the prison population explain why inmates produce extralegal governance institutions in either decentralized ways, such as ostracism, or through more centralized forms, such as gangs. Comparative analysis of Brazil, Bolivia, England, Scandinavia, and men’s and women’s prisons in California provide empirical support.

American Individualism Rises and Falls with the Economy: Cross-temporal Evidence that Individualism Declines When the Economy Falters



Abstract: Past work has shown that economic growth often engenders greater individualism. Yet much of this work charts changes in wealth and individualism over long periods of time, making it unclear whether rising individualism is primarily driven by wealth or by the social and generational changes that often accompany large-scale economic transformations. This article explores whether individualism is sensitive to more transient macroeconomic fluctuations, even in the absence of transformative social changes or generational turnover. Six studies found that individualism swelled during prosperous times and fell during recessionary times. In good economic times, Americans were more likely to give newborns uncommon names (Study 1), champion autonomy in children (Study 2), aspire to look different from others (Study 3), and favor music with self-focused language (Study 4). Conversely, when the economy was floundering, Americans were more likely to socialize children to attend to the needs of others (Study 2) and favor music with other-oriented language (Study 4). Subsequent studies found that recessions engendered uncertainty (Study 5) which in turn tempered individualism and fostered interdependence (Study 6).

The Weakness of Postcommunist Civil Society Reassessed



Abstract: During the last two decades, scholars from a variety of disciplines have argued that civil society is structurally deficient in postcommunist countries. Yet why have the seemingly strong, active and mobilised civic movements of the transition period become so weak after democracy was established? And why have there been diverging political trajectories across the postcommunist space if civil society structures were universally weak? This article uses a new, broader range of data to show that civil societies in Central and Eastern European countries are not as feeble as commonly assumed. Many postcommunist countries possess vigorous public spheres and active civil society organisations strongly connected to transnational civic networks able to shape domestic policies. In a series of time-series cross-section models, the article shows that broader measures of civic and social institutions are able to predict the diverging transition paths among postcommunist regimes, and in particular the growing gap between democratic East Central Europe and the increasingly authoritarian post-Soviet space.

Identity Voting


PUBLIC CHOICE, October 2016, Volume 169, Issue 1, pp 77–95

Abstract: This paper analyzes voting behavior in parliamentary elections in which positional and identity issues sustain the party system. We extend the conventional spatial voting model to incorporate identity issues. Identity is tied to the race, language, religion or culture of the voters and both voters and political parties may belong to different identity groups. By identity voting we show that voters, who are otherwise centrist, move toward the parties that align with their identities. To illustrate the mechanics of identity voting, we provide an empirical analysis of parliamentary elections to the Basque Autonomous Community. Besides the two positional issues in the region—left–right ideology and nationalism—we show that language and Basque sentiment have significant effects on voting. Our analysis suggests that identity voting polarizes voters and can sustain stable multi-party systems. This finding is of immediate importance to other regions and countries where the electorate is divided by strong ties to different religions, languages or cultures.