- Urban and rural economic development, with a special focus on informal and political institutions
- Causes and Consequences of regional identity
- Origins of State Capacity
- Financial history
Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals
Early and Medieval Periods in German Economic History, 2020, forthcoming in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Economics and Finance (with Thilo R. Huning)
The study of the medieval state on the territory of modern Germany and Central Europe, the Holy Roman Empire, looks back at generations of qualitative economic historians, and has attracted quantitative scholars from various subfields. Its bordering position between Roman and Germanic legacy, its Carolingian inheritance, and the notorious amount of small states emerging from 1150 onward, are on the one hand suspected to hinder market integration but also allowed states to compete. This has inspired ample research questions around differences and communalities in culture, the origin of the state, the integration of good and financial markets, and technology invented here, like the Printing Press. While little is still known about the economy of the rural population, cities and their economic conditions have been extensively studied from the angles of economic geography, institutionalism, and for their influence on early human capital accumulation. The literature has stressed that Germany in this time cannot be seen as a closed economy but has put it into a wider European context, much shaped by global or European events, such as the Black Death, or the constituency of the Catholic church. As such, the literature provides an understanding for the prelude to radical changes in this area, such as the Lutheran reformation, several religious wars, and the coming of the modern age with its economic innovations.
Savings Banks and the Industrial Revolution in Prussia. Supporting Regional Development with Public Financial Institutions, 2019, Mimeo (with Sibylle Lehmann-Hasemeyer)
We show that smaller, regional public financial intermediaries significantly contributed to industrial development, using a new data set of the foundation year and location of Prussian savings banks. This extends the banking-growth nexus beyond its traditional focus on the large universal banks, to savings banks. The saving banks had an impact through the financing of public infrastructure, such as railways, and new private factories. Saving banks were public financial intermediaries, so our results strongly suggest that state intervention can be very successful, particularly in regions in the early stages of industrial development when capital requirements are manageable, and access to international capital markets is limited.
R&R Economic History Review
(Older Version: CEPR Discussion Paper No. 12500)
The Origins and Dynamics of Agricultural Inheritance Traditions, 2019, Mimeo (with Thilo R. Huning)
In this paper, we analyze the origins of agricultural inheritance traditions. Our case study is the German state of Baden-Württemberg, for which we have data on 3,382 municipalities. We provide a dynamic model on primogeniture and equal partition. This model highlights the role of evolution of norms and geography for the persistence in inheritance traditions. We then test this model systematically with a wide array of variables related to Roman, medieval, and early modern roots of inheritance traditions, and their alteration during later periods. We find that rural inheritance traditions are primarily determined by an evolution of tradition shaped by geography, and that the modern inheritance tradition found in the area today has been shaped before the Industrial Revolution. We also study data on village desertion and attribute this phenomenon to insufficient flexibility.
R&R Journal of Comparative Economics (resubmitted)
(Older Version: University of York Discussion Paper in Economics 09/19)
Illuminating the World Cup Effect: Night Lights Evidence from South Africa, 2018, Journal of Regional Science, 58(5), pp. 887-920 (with Gregor Pfeifer and Martyna Marczak)
This paper evaluates the economic impact of the $14 billion preparatory infrastructure investments for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. We use satellite data on night light luminosity at municipality and electoral district level as a proxy for economic development, applying synthetic control methods for estimation. For the World Cup municipality, we find significantly positive, short-run effects before the tournament, corresponding to a reduction of unemployment by 1.3 percentage points. At the electoral district level, we reveal distinct effect heterogeneity, where especially investments in transport infrastructure are shown to have long-lasting, positive effects, particularly in more rural areas.
Media Coverage: Sunday Times | htxt.africa | SciBraai.com | Press Report of the University of Hohenheim (in German)
(Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences, No-16-2016)
Political Participation and Economic Development. Evidence from the Rise of Participative Political Institutions in the Late Medieval German Lands, 2019, European Review of Economic History, 23(2), pp. 193-213.
Participative political institutions in late medieval cities in the German Lands had the potential to impact city size and growth. The study confirms the positive effect on economic outcomes of inclusive political institutions in 282 cities, as found by other studies, but supports a more skeptical view of craft guilds. Craft guilds participating in the city council had zero or negative impact. Enfranchising citizens to elect the city government had a stable and robustly positive effect on city size and growth, but only during the medieval period. The effect of participatory institutions declines with age: they are prone to institutional degeneration and increased rent-seeking.
(accepted version on SSRN) (Replication Files)
Older version of the paper was entitled "Participative Political Institutions and City Development 800-1800"
(SSRN) (EHES Working Papers in Economic History, No. 73)
Does European Development Have Roman Roots? Evidence from the German Limes, 2017, Journal of Economic Growth, 22(3), pp. 313-349.
This paper contributes to the understanding of the long-run consequences of Roman rule on economic development. In ancient times, the area of contemporary Germany was divided into a Roman and non-Roman part. The study uses this division to test whether the formerly Roman part of Germany show a higher nighttime luminosity than the non-Roman part. This is done by using the Limes Germanicus wall as geographical discontinuity in a regression discontinuity design framework. The results indicate that economic development—as measured by luminosity—is indeed significantly and robustly larger in the formerly Roman part of Germany. The study identifies the persistence of the Roman road network until the present as an important factor causing this development advantage of the formerly Roman part of Germany both by fostering city growth and by allowing for a denser road network.
(older version at SSRN)
Older version of the paper was entitled "The Long Shadow of History. Roman Legacy and Economic Development---Evidence from the German Limes"
(SSRN) (Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences, No. 8-2015)
Summary of the article in German:
Augustus' langer Schatten. Warum der römische Teil Deutschlands noch heute besser entwickelt ist, 2018, Ifo Dresden berichtet, 2/2018.
Does Medieval Trade Still Matter? Historical Trade Centers, Agglomeration and Contemporary Economic Development, 2016, Regional Science and Urban Economics, 60, pp. 50-60.
This study establishes a link between medieval trade, agglomeration and contemporary regional development in ten European countries. It documents a statistically and economically significant positive relationship between prominent involvement in medieval trade and regional economic development today. The analysis indicates that a long-lasting effect of medieval trade on contemporary regional development is indeed transmitted via its effect on agglomeration and industry concentration. Further empirical analyses show that medieval trade positively influenced city development both during the medieval period and in the long run; they also reveal a robust connection between medieval city growth and contemporary regional agglomeration and industry concentration. This research thus highlights the long-run importance of medieval trade in shaping the development of cities as well as the contemporary spatial distribution of economic activity throughout Europe. The path-dependent regional development processes caused by medieval commercial activities help explain the observed persistent regional development differences across the European countries considered.
(last working paper version at SSRN) (FZID Discussion Papers No. 82-2013) (Medieval Trade Data)
Participative Political Institutions in Pre-Modern Europe. Introducing a New Database, 2016, Historical Methods. A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, 49(2), pp. 67-79.
This paper introduces and describes a new city-level data set on political institutions in pre-modern Europe. To be precise, it presents three variables reporting the prevalence of the different existing types of participative political institutions between 800 AD and 1800 AD in 104 cities in central Europe (Alsace-Lorrain, Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland). According to the historical studies consulted the three included measures (intensity of guild participation in the city council, participative election procedures and the existence of institutionalized burgher representation) represent the universe of existing political institutions in cities in this era. This new data set is potentially useful for advancing knowledge in various ongoing research debates about e.g., the impact of political institutions and regimes on city development, the effects of guilds, the relationship of economic and political institutions and the debate about the advantages or disadvantages of city states relative to territorial states.
(latest working paper version at SSRN) (Data Set)
Extended Participative Political Institutions Database
Extended version of the above dataset containing information on political institutions in 325 cities in the HRE. I added additional information for 201 cities in Austria, Germany and Switzerland that had more than 5000 but less than 10000 inhabitants at least once in the period between 800-1800. Those cities are included in the Bairoch et al. (1988) city population data set but not in Bosker et al. (2013) database. I also added information on cities in Poland that were part of the HRE in 1500 AD and included in the Bairoch et al. database (20). Coding for these additional cities is based on the "Deutsche Städtebuch" (German Handbook of Cities), the "Österreichische Städtebuch" (Austrian Handbook of Cities) as well as the Historical Encyclopedia of Switzerland.
Die Entwicklung des Lebensstandards im Dritten Reich. Eine glücksökonomische Perspektive, 2013, Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte (Economic History Yearbook) 54(1), pp. 89-110.
The goal of this paper is to provide an explanation for the remarkable difference in the contemporary Germans positive self-assessment of their living conditions and the development of the most important economic welfare indicators (like GDP or consumption per capita) during the Third Reich. To explain this discrepancy, findings of the new research field of happiness economics are applied to the peacetime of the Third Reich to analyze the development of the standard of living in this period. First, the theory of adaption and aspiration is used to explain the growing satisfaction of the Germans after the Great Depression. In the second step, based on current life satisfaction studies, the development of the most important economic determinants of happiness during the 1930s is examined.
(earlier working paper version)
The Deep Imprint of Roman Sandals: Evidence of Long-lasting Effects of Roman Rule on Personality, Economic Performance, and Well-Being in Germany, 2020, WP coming soon (with Michael Fritsch, Martin Obschonka and Michael Wyrwich)
We investigate whether the Roman presence in the southern part of Germany nearly 2,000 years ago had a deep imprinting effect with long run consequences on a broad spectrum of measures ranging from present-day personality profiles to a number of socioeconomic outcomes and why. Today’s populations living in the former Roman part of Germany score indeed higher on certain personality traits, have higher life and health satisfaction, longer life expectancy, generate more inventions and behave in a more entrepreneurial way. These findings help explain that regions under Roman rule have higher present-day levels of economic development in terms of GDP per capita. The effects hold when controlling for other potential historical influences. When addressing potential channels of a long term effect of Roman rule the data indicates that the Roman road network plays an important role as a mechanism in the cultural imprinting that is still perceptible today.
The Fetters of Inheritance? Equal Partition and Regional Economic Development, 2019, Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences No. 9-2019 (with Thilo R. Huning)
How can agricultural inheritance traditions affect structural change and economic development in rural areas? The most prominent historical traditions are primogeniture, where the oldest son inherits the whole farm, and equal partition, where land is split and each heir inherits an equal share. In this paper, we provide a theoretical model that links these inheritance traditions to the local allocation of labor and capital and to municipal development. First, we show that among contemporary municipalities in West Germany, equal partition is significantly related to measures of economic development. Second, we conduct OLS and fuzzy spatial RDD estimates for Baden-Württemberg in the 1950s and today. We find that inheritance rules caused, in line with our theoretical predictions, higher incomes, population densities, and industrialization levels in areas with equal partition. Results suggest that more than a third of the overall inter-regional difference in average per capita income in present-day Baden Württemberg, or 597 Euro, can be explained by equal partition.
(Also appeared as EHES Working Paper No. 165)
You Reap What You Know: Appropriability and the Origin of European States, 2019, Mimeo (with Thilo R. Huning)
Geography provides some states with a higher level of soil quality than others, and in addition has allowed some historical states to tax agricultural output more eciently. To test this idea empirically, we propose a geographic index of information costs, and observability, to understand if more heterogeneous soil quality has kept states from taxing e ectively. We provide empirical results on three levels. We nd a signi cant and robust positive relationship between observability and the sizes of all European states from 1300 to 1500. We then present a new data set on the states in the Holy Roman Empire from 1150 to 1789, and here nd robust links between different measures of state capacity and observability. Finally, we test our theory on a set of 660 municipalities from 1545 Wurttemberg for which we have tax data. We nd
a signifcant and positive relationship between observability and municipal tax returns. As a sideline, we present ample new data on the historical economic geography within the German lands.
(An older version entitled "Lord of the Lemons: Origins and Dynamics of State Capacity" is available as Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences, No. 22-2017)
Previous Versions: (EHES Working Papers in Economic History, No. 101) (BEHL Working Paper No. 2016-05)
Other Publications (in German)
Die Bedeutung von Vertrauen für Globalisierung und internationale Integration, in: Kollmer-von Oheim-Loup, G., Lehmann-Hasemeyer, S. and van de Kerkoff, S. (2017). Ökonomie und Ethik – Beiträge aus Wirtschaft und Geschichte. (Stuttgarter Historische Studien zur Landes- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Bd. 23), S. 265-294. Thorbecke Verlag, Ostfildern.
Older version was published in English and entitled "Why It Matters What People Think. Colonization, Legal Origins and the Deep Roots of Trust"
(SSRN) (FZID Discussion Paper No. 52-2012)
Schlüsselbranche Maschinenbau. Ein mikrodatenbasierte Analyse, 2014, IAW Policy Reports No. 10. (with Raimund Krumm)
Work in Progress
What I don’t Know, I don’t Buy Historical Determinants Home Bias in Germany (with Thilo Huning and Andreas Neumayer)
Project funded by the DFG (as part of PP 1859 "Experience and Expectation. Historical Foundations of Economic Behaviour"):
Origins and Consequences of Regional Identity: Evidence from Historical Differences in Political Instability and Fragmentation among German States. (Kai Gehring and Thilo Huning are project partners)