Kevin Lewis

November 19, 2018

Inheritance, urbanization, and political change in Europe
Mircea Popa
European Political Science Review, forthcoming


Urbanization and the development of middle and working classes have been proposed as a key explanation for political change in the Western world. This article argues that the traditional inheritance systems practiced across Europe have played an important role in the differential development of these urban classes in the period 1700–1900. Inheritance systems that practice some degree of inequality between heirs will lead to more children, generally younger brothers, leaving the land and taking up urban occupations. A statistical analysis of geographical data shows that regions in which such unequal inheritance was practiced were two to three times more likely to develop urban areas after 1700. This claim is robust to a number of challenges, including country fixed effects, and to only looking at Western Europe. An important mechanism through which the divergence may have occurred is illustrated through a quantitative analysis of pairs of brothers in the UK and Romania, two countries with opposing inheritance traditions.

Toward understanding 17th century English culture: A structural topic model of Francis Bacon's ideas
Peter Grajzl & Peter Murrell
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming


We use machine-learning methods to study the features and origins of the ideas of Francis Bacon, a key figure who provided the intellectual roots of a cultural paradigm that spurred modern economic development. Bacon's works are the data in an estimation of a structural topic model, a recently developed methodology for analysis of text corpora. The estimates uncover sixteen topics prominent in Bacon's opus. Two are key elements of the ideas usually associated with Bacon — inductive epistemology and fact-seeking. The utilitarian promise of science and the centralized organization of the scientific quest, embraced by Bacon's followers, were not emphasized by him. Using strategic communication, Bacon facilitated reception of his scientific methodology, targeted influential groups, and finessed powerful opponents. We provide the first quantitative evidence that the genesis of Bacon's epistemology lies in his experience in the common-law. Combining our findings with accepted arguments in the existing literature, we suggest that the effects of common-law culture can help explain the coincidence of early political and economic development in England.

Judicial Efficiency and Firm Productivity: Evidence from a World Database of Judicial Reforms
Matthieu Chemin
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming


I assemble and classify a database of judicial reforms funded by foreign aid agencies as either comprehensive (targeting all characteristics of quality, speed, access) or limited reform. A triple difference is used to compare firms: 1) in countries with or without judicial reforms, 2) before and after reforms, and 3) in sectors more or less reliant on contract enforcement mechanisms, due to their need for relationship-specific investments. I find that externally financed comprehensive judicial reforms improve perceptions of judiciary efficiency (for all firms) and firm productivity (for sectors relying on relationship-specific investments) by 0.15 and 0.09 (22 percent) standard deviation, respectively.

Gender and the Politics of Death: Female Representation, Political and Developmental Context, and Population Health in a Cross-National Panel
Ross Macmillan, Naila Shofia & Wendy Sigle
Demography, October 2018, Pages 1905–1934


There is considerable speculation that female political empowerment could improve population health. Yet, evidence to date is limited, and explanations for why political empowerment would matter and the conditions under which this might be enhanced or muted are not well understood. In this article, we draw on theoretical work on the politics of representation to frame an investigation of whether increases in the percentage of females in a country’s parliament influence mortality rates. We further examine whether the relationship is conditioned by extent of democracy and economic and social development. Through multivariate longitudinal regression, we analyze four indicators of mortality in 155 countries spanning 1990 to 2014 with controls for initial country conditions, time-stable structural predispositions to higher mortality, and a number of time-varying potential confounders. Results indicate that a high level of female representation — 30 % or greater in our models — has large negative associations with mortality, that these are particularly strong in lesser developed and weak democratic contexts, that high female political representation effectively offsets liabilities associated with low development, and that the relationships are robust to various operationalizations of social development. In the end, our research provides a particularly thorough accounting of the relationship between female political representation and population health, particularly by specifying the conditions under which female representation is most salient. In doing so, the research suggests important links between issues of female empowerment, political context, and developmental trajectories of countries more generally.

Does Urbanization Mean Bigger Governments?
Michael Jetter & Christopher Parmeter
Scandinavian Journal of Economics, October 2018, Pages 1202-1228


In this paper, we introduce urbanization as an important driver of government size. Using panel data for 175 countries from 1960 to 2010, we find that there is a close link between urbanization and the size of the public sector, especially when looking at education, health care, and social issues. Various robustness checks confirm this finding. An analysis of state‐level public spending in Colombia and Germany confirms our hypothesis on the subnational level. On the microeconomic level, people in urban areas acknowledge that governments should take more responsibility, and they are more in favor of redistribution. This finding can help to explain the evolution of government size, and it can also predict the present and future needs of urbanizing areas.

Most of Africa’s Nutritionally-Deprived Women and Children are Not Found in Poor Households
Caitlin Brown, Martin Ravallion & Dominique van de Walle
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming


Policy makers often assume that targeting observably-poor households suffices in reaching nutritionally-deprived individuals. We question that assumption. Our comprehensive assessment for sub-Saharan Africa reveals that undernourished women and children are spread widely across the household wealth and consumption distributions. Roughly three-quarters of underweight women and undernourished children are not found in the poorest 20% of households, and around half are not found in the poorest 40%. Countries with higher undernutrition tend to have higher shares of undernourished individuals in non-poor households. Intra-household inequality accounts in part for our results but other factors appear to be important, including common health risks.

Intra-Elite Competition and Long-Run Fiscal Development
Pablo Beramendi, Mark Dincecco & Melissa Rogers
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


This paper exploits an original database that spans 30-plus developed and developing nations between 1870 and 2010 to perform the first empirical analysis of the relationship between historical levels of intra-elite competition and fiscal development over the long run. We argue that the timing of industrialization affects the extent of historical competition between agricultural and capitalist elites, which in turn helps shape key initial decisions over fiscal size and structure. Under "early" industrialization, intra-elite competition levels tended to be greater, promoting fiscal development characterized by high overall taxation and tax progressivity. Under "late" industrialization, by contrast, agricultural elites were more likely to retain political dominance, promoting fiscal states characterized by low overall taxation and tax regressivity. We show evidence for a positive, statistically significant, and robust relationship between historical intra-elite competition levels and long-run fiscal development. This focus on intra-elite competition improves our understanding of the fundamental determinants of cross-national fiscal differences today.

Democratic Reform and Opposition to Government Expenditure: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century Britain
Jonathan Chapman
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, October 2018, Pages 363-404


Several theories have argued that democratic reform will lead to higher government spending. However, these theories have generally focused on expenditure on redistribution rather than expenditure on public goods. This paper presents a model predicting that democratization leads to lower government expenditure on infrastructure if the median pre-reform voter is middle class. This prediction is tested using a new panel data set of town council infrastructure spending and revenue in nineteenth-century Britain. An 1894 national reform implementing a system of "one-household–one-vote" and the secret ballot is used as the treatment event in a difference-in-difference analysis. The results show that democratic reform led to lower levels of town council spending on public goods, including water supply and other public infrastructure, relative to towns that were democratized at an earlier date. In line with the theoretical prediction, this negative effect was strongest when democratic reform transferred power from the middle class to the poor.

Democracy's Unique Advantage in Promoting Economic Growth: Quantitative Evidence for a New Institutional Theory
Rui Tang & Shiping Tang
Kyklos, November 2018, Pages 642-666


Bringing together the classic defense of liberty and democracy, the political economy of hierarchy, endogenous growth theory, and the new institutional economics on growth, we propose a new institutional theory that identifies democracy's unique advantage in prompting economic growth. We contend that the channel of liberty‐to‐innovation is the most critical channel in which democracy holds a unique advantage over autocracy in promoting growth, especially during the stage of growth via innovation. Our theory thus predicts that democracy holds a positive but indirect effect upon growth via the channel of liberty‐to‐innovation, conditioned by the level of economic development. We then present quantitative evidence for our theory. To our best knowledge, we are the first to propose such an indirect and conditional effect of democracy upon economic development and provide systematic evidence. Our study promises to integrate and reconcile many seemingly unrelated and often contradictory theories and evidence regarding regime and growth, including providing a possible explanation for the inconclusive results from regressing overall regime score against the rate of economic growth or change in level of GDP per capita.

Maize and precolonial Africa
Jevan Cherniwchan & Juan Moreno-Cruz
Journal of Development Economics, January 2019, Pages 137-150


Columbus's arrival in the New World triggered an unprecedented movement of people and crops across the Atlantic Ocean. We study a largely overlooked part of this Columbian Exchange: the effects of New World crops in Africa. Specifically, we test the hypothesis that the introduction of maize increased population density and slave exports in precolonial Africa. We find robust empirical support for these predictions. We also find little evidence to suggest maize increased economic growth or reduced conflict. Our results suggest that rather than stimulating development, the introduction of maize simply increased the supply of slaves during the slave trades.

Revisiting the democracy-private investment nexus: Does inequality matter?
Kemal Kivanç Aköz et al.
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming


Contrary to the predictions of a large theoretical literature, recent cross-country evidence suggests autocracies can generate statistically indistinguishable levels of private investment compared to democracies. We argue that the previous exclusion of inequality explains part of this puzzle. We model current investment as a function of investors’ beliefs about future tax rates, which are conditioned by the constraints on the Executive in setting tax rates and expropriating tax revenues. In democracies, where tax rates reflect the preferences of the median voter, investment declines with rising inequality. In autocracies, investor beliefs about future tax rates reflect the relative power of Elites compared to the Executive. As inequality rises, the increased resources available to Elites constrains the Executive’s ability to expropriate more tax revenues. The heterogeneous determinants of investor beliefs can explain the observed pattern of investment across regime types. We first test our predictions at the macro-level with cross-country data. We then test the behavioral underpinnings of our model with a novel laboratory experiment showing how inequality affects individual-level investment behavior dependent upon regime type. Results from both types of analyses show that when inequality is taken into account autocracies can generate similar levels of investment to democracies.

The Gendered Consequences of Financial Crises: A Cross-National Analysis
Robert Blanton, Shannon Blanton & Dursun Peksen
Politics & Gender, forthcoming


What effects do financial crises have on women's well-being? While much research has addressed various socio-economic and political consequences of financial crises, the gendered impact of financial crises are empirically underexplored. Moreover, extant literature has mainly focused on specific crises or countries with little attempt at determining possible common effects and patterns across the world. To provide broader insight into the gendered consequences of financial crises, we examined the degree to which five types of financial crises — banking crises, currency crises, domestic sovereign debt crises, external sovereign debt crises, and inflation crises — affect women's health and educational outcomes as well as their participation in the formal economy and politics. We also examined the persistence of these effects in the postcrisis years. The results from a panel of 68 countries for the years 1980 to 2010 indicate that financial crises undermine women's participation in the formal workforce, their presence in politics, their educational attainment, and their health outcomes. We also found significant lingering effects of financial crises: the deleterious gendered effects of crises persist even seven years after the end of a crisis.

Testing legal origins theory within France: Customary laws versus Roman code
David le Bris
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming


Before 1804, France was strictly divided in terms of legal regimes: a part was under Roman civil law while the majority of the territory was under customary laws which, as with common law, gave more flexibility to judges and fewer rights to the state. This dichotomy offers the unique opportunity to test legal origins theory free from cross-country heterogeneity. Fiscal and census data from 1801–1821 show the absence of any negative impact of the civil law either on the whole of France or when focusing on counties bordering the legal frontier. Cities were no more populous in customary areas. The same is true for the population density observed in 1793 at the parish level in Auvergne, a province in which the two regimes were entangled. Civil law even appears to have a positive effect in some specifications.

Impact of Violent Crime on Risk Aversion: Evidence from the Mexican Drug War
Ryan Brown et al.
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming


Whereas attitudes towards risk play an important role in many decisions over the life-course, factors that affect those attitudes are not fully understood. Using longitudinal survey data collected in Mexico before and during the Mexican war on drugs, we investigate how risk attitudes change with variation in insecurity and uncertainty brought on by unprecedented changes in local-area violent crime. Exploiting the fact that the timing, virulence and spatial distribution of changes in violent crime were unanticipated, we establish there is a rise in risk aversion spread across the entire local population as local-area violent crime increases.

Arbitration in classical Athens
Bryan McCannon
Constitutional Political Economy, December 2018, Pages 413–423


The Classical Athenians developed two formal arbitration procedures. They assigned low stakes disputes to a panel of arbitrators, while high stakes cases were handled by a single arbitrator. Given the information aggregation benefit of collective decision making, one would have expected more individuals to be assigned to more important cases. I develop a theoretical model to provide an explanation for their design. Recognizing that arbitrator competence is endogenous, effort put into making a good decision takes time and effort. In larger groups free riding is a concern. Consequently, there exists environments where the free-riding loss is magnified in higher stakes disputes to the point where the socially optimal panel size is inversely related to the stakes involved.


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