Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

4 Nobel Prize winners in São Paulo

...and several top researchers:Second Brazilian Workshop of the Game Theory Society. (Thanks, Vanessa Nadalin)


I am on vacations and I'll stay off-line for one month. However, there are post are programmed. Stay tuned! BTW, this is my Xmas gift to you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Dafen (China): 8,000 painters in 4 km^2 produce 5 million paintings/year. Picasso, Van Gogh, and Leonardo are reproduced at an industrial scale. More here. A sophisticated studio in Dafen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New season of More or Less

My favorite rádio show presented by Tim Harford. Download it now because each episode is available for just one week.

Hyperinflation in ZImbabwe

The Zimbabwean dollar has gone, but this picture depicts its inglorious end.

Via boingboing.
UPDATE: Thomas Kang is a trillionaire!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Malaria in 1870 USA

Darker shades represent places with a higher share of malaria victims among the dead. It could reach almost 18% in some counties.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Science is interesting

NYT Year in Ideas. There are a whole bunch of amazing things. From studies on racial discrimination on football to ultimatum game played by drunks.
(If you disagree with the title of the post , then....)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All the flights of the world

24 hours in 72 seconds. (I can not even guess the size of the W matrix!)
Ideas that I am not going to carry out: do the same thing with Eltis data on slave trade.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Economist's New Clothes

This BBC 4 radio show about the 2009 crisis has interviews with Quah, Scholes e Thaler. (The presenter is quite simplistic, but it is a nice show anyway)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mainstream Plurocracy

I came across the expression "mainstream plurodoxy" while reading this paper by David Colander (hat tip Shikida). I think it quite a neat way to describe modern economics:
By plurodoxy, I mean a mainstream that has no orthodoxy, neoclassical or other. It is a mainstream composed of many different competing beliefs and research programs...
Today, the problem facing all heterodox groups, Austrians included, is that much of what they were fighting against no longer exists, if it ever did exist. Any orthodoxy that may have existed back in the 1970s has been replaced by a mainstream plurocracy.
I think that the concept is a "sequel" of his paper 2000 paper "The Death of Neoclassical Economics"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I love XKCD

Maybe I've been working to much with R, but I love this XKCD tribute:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The role of rats and beer in Economic History

Economic History Blog is an excellent blog and also entertaining. Recently the author came across rat furs (!?!?!?!!?) exports from Manhattan to the Netherlands. In another post, he argues that beer may have caused the Industrial Revolution.

G R Elton - The Practice of History

It is an great book on the theory and practice of History. Geoffrey Elton is such an amazing writer, it almost reads like poetry. The first paragraph:
"The future is dark, the present burdensome; only the past, dead and finished, bears contemplation. Those who look upon it have survived it: they are its product and its victors. No wonder, therefore, that men concern themselves with history.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


My friend Bernardo Furtado convinced me that Netlogo is pretty cool. He showed me a bunch of impressive simulations, but one really got me: Von Thünen model.


Video: Robert Allen:Why was the Industrial Revolution British?. (via Brad Delong)
Gapminder now holds data on food production and regional inequality. (via Marginal Revolution)
Anti-capitalist soviet posters were amazing! (via BoingBoing)
Art ?? (via BoingBoing)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kindle international version

Amazon says it will ship the new Kindle worldwide!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tax on innumeracy is well spent

Britain's National Lotery will help Bletchley Park. Cory Doctorow points the irony : innumerates fund the preservation of the memory of the geniuses of the past.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Qgis is an open-source alternative to Arcview, specially when you install the plug-ins.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


A new number of the French journal. I have not read it yet (as usual), but the titles of the papers called my attention (e.g. "Fallacious convergence? Williamson’s real wage comparisons under scrutiny")

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More or less

Is there any other radio show where you can listen to Hal Varian (talking about statistics) and Andrew Gelman ("Do beautiful parents have more daughters?")?
Now the full archives of the show are available on-line!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I envy Ed Glaeser

I confess. In one year he has posted ten new (and excellent, I am sure) papers in his web page! Besides, he is a great writer. Check out his review of the book on the quarrel between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cofffe and Sugar

Hans-Joachim Voth and Jonathan Hersh estimate that the introduction of coffee and sugar led to a 10% increase in welfare. They say that the stagnant wages before 1800 is a distortion caused by the exclusion of these goods from price indexes. Their method of estimation seems very interesting. Two phrases:
"Half of all spending was on beer and bread, and fully three-quarters of all calories came from these two sources alone."
"The reason why seemingly mundane goods like sugar, coffee and tea made a big difference to living standards is that life was not just “nasty, brutish, and short” at their time of introduction – it was also (in culinary terms) grey, boring, and bland."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I will not tag this post as "Humor"

Via Mankiw

Napoleon in Russia

Drawn by Charles Minard (1869), the thickness of the lines indicates the size of Napoleon's army on his way to Moscow (1812-1813). Quite macabre, but it is a beautiful graph anyway.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in an Age of Info-glut

Following Tyler Cowen's suggestion, I bought Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in an Age of Info-glut at Amazon. When it arrived, I sadly realized that it had no tables, graphs or equation and it was full of references to Foucault.
To my own suprise, I loved the book. It is an amazing guide to serious qualitative research in the social sciences and Kristin Luker is a terrific writer. Strongly recommended.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Do not complain when you are stuck on an airport

In 1850:
- The cost of a coast to coast trip in the USA was around US$200 (about US$ 5000 in 2008 dollars), around half of the income of an unskilled worker. The trip took between 4 and 6 months. (On the other hand, a ticket from Sweden to New York was around US$ 17-25 and took less than a couple of months.)
Source: Clay, Karen e Jones, Randall Jones. Migration to Riches from the California Gold Rush. The Journal of Economic History, v.68, n.4, Dec 2008, p. 997-1027

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On vacation

A two-week break. I am going to be off-line, unplugged and disconnected until the end of July.
All the best!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

French Revolution and Napoleon as natural experiments

Acemoglu, Cantoni, Johnson e Robinson state that the regions invaded by the French grew faster than other areas . ( Maybe an Olsonian mechanism could explain this fact...)
BTW, bon 14 juillet à tous!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Jeffrey Williamson talks

The scholar talks about the crucial themes on economic history: long term growth, globalization(s), divergence/convergence, immigration, and everything else.

(The editors of the journal also publish the blog Oxonomics.)

Friday, July 3, 2009

The José Mindlin Library on Brazil

Tons of rare books and manuscripts are available on-line. The site is in Portuguese, but there are several documents in English, French and German.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Internet is for Porn

Yes, it is true. But you can also watch the LSE lectures of Krugman, Bernanke, Quah, Richard Thaler, Paul Collier...

Monday, June 1, 2009


(By Arnaldo Interata 04/28/2009)

Software Tips

- I gave up Remember the Milk and moved to Google Tasks (5 additional ways to access it);
- Quantum GIS, the open source alternative to ArcView.
- Go-oo, an Open Office upgrade. HT Renato Colistete. (If you use Ubuntu there is no need to upgrade.)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Industrial Revolution. Why Europe and not China? Why Britain?

Two new explanations:
-Hans-Joachim Voth (et alii) says that the reason lies in the emergence of the European Marriage Pattern . (BTW, Voth creates amazing papers' titles)
- Robert Allen asserts that trade created the conditions for the British Industrial Revolution: high wages and cheap energy. (The book with the full story is here. The Economist reviews it here).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

European Slaves in Africa

I know that human trafficking was quite common during the poor, nasty, brutish, and long human history. However, this really have surprised me:
"According to one estimate, 7,000 English people were abducted between 1622-1644, many of them ships' crews and passengers. But the corsairs also landed on unguarded beaches, often at night, to snatch the unwary.
Almost all the inhabitants of the village of Baltimore, in Ireland, were captured in 1631, and there were other raids in Devon and Cornwall."
It seems that one million Europeans (an overestimation, some may say) were slaved by North African pirates between 1530 and 1780. More about the subject.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Google Maps + Time Machine

Be prepared to spend more than 8 hours just in Hypercities.
(Zephyr Frank and Sidney Chalhoub were (are?) working on something similar for Rio de Janeiro)
Via Wired.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

56th Annual North American Regional Science Association Conference


Consumer surplus

To whom it may concern: atemoya (2 USD/kg in Brazil) generates the highest consumer surplus possible (at least for me).
UPDATE: The price fell to 1,5 USD/kg!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rodrik X Easterly on Industrial Policy and Steady Growth

William Easterly nailed it!
"So here is Dani Rodrik on success and industrial policy: “the countries that have produced steady, long-term growth during the last six decades are those that relied on a different strategy: promoting diversification into manufactured … goods” (cited in Economist’s View).

So Dani concludes, “What matters [for growth in developing countries] is their output of modern industrial goods” and that developing countries will have to get busy with “real industrial policies.” Finally, “external policy actors (for example, the World Trade Organization) will have to be more tolerant of these policies.”

Unfortunately, Dani is also REVERSING CONDITIONAL PROBABILITIES. Dani’s evidence is based on what he believes is the high probability that IF you have had steady growth for six decades, THEN you had industrial policy. This is interesting, but this is not the right probability in deciding whether to choose industrial policy, which is “IF you have industrial policy, THEN what is your chance of steady growth for six decades?

HT Brad DeLong.

"It is the economy, companheiro!": an empirical analysis of Lula's re-election based on municipal data

by Araújo Jr, Carraro, Damé, Shikida and me in the Economics Bulletin
This paper discusses the reasons that led to the Lula's 2006 re-election. Spatial analysis methods revealed that,contrary to 2002, the President had more votes in less developed municipalities of Brazil. The econometric results cast doubt on the analyses that attribute to Bolsa Família Programme total responsibility for the re-election. Lula''s electoral success results from changes in the labor market, low inflation and an export boom that have reduced inequality and
improved the real wages of the Brazilian poor.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Moving II

By the end of the month, I am leaving UFABC and I will join IPEA, the Brazilian Institute of Applied Economics, in Brasília.

Unfair competition

When people say "unfair competition" they usually mean a) "I not understand comparative advantages"; b) "I have vested interest in protectionism. However in this situation "unfair competition" is an understatement.

The Credit Crunch of 1294


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Economist should be despised

Hayek said that Marshall said:
Students of social science, must fear popular approval: Evil is with
them when all men speak well of them

(Strangely I could not find the exact reference. Maybe Hayek was just like Keynes, who had the habit of making up quotations.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Is the crisis over? (II)

I hope it is. But I think it is kind of sad that one of the boldest forecasts is based just on a historic correlation. There is no model or explanatory theory.

Carlo Cipolla and Stupidity

The famous Italian historian Carlo Cipolla - quite surprisingly - stated the basic laws of stupidity.
I do believe that the root of all human suffering is stupidity, not evilness and not evil. Maybe I am wrong but this idea comforts me
Via Marginal Revolution.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Why Ubuntu?

In order to protect my tired madelung wrists, I gave up my dear T61 and I've bought a desktop and an ergonomic keyboard. Pretty cool machine, but it took me a couple of hours to remove the bloatware from Windows Vista.
Yesterday I installed the new Ubuntu. One hour later, everything was working perfectly, including the microsoft keyboard and the all-in-one printer. It took me 30 extra minutes to install all extra software. (In Ubuntu world you just choose the softwares that you want from a list. It downloads, installs and tracks new versions No need for going to each website and clicking "I accept" a thousand times). Awesome.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ulisses M. Ruiz de Gamboa, a cliometrician

Strangely, the works of Ulisses were flying under my radar. He's been working with historical Brazilian public finance for many years and now he and William Summerhill are uncovering "fiscal skeletons".
I met him last week and found out that, besides being technically sophisticated, he is a nice guy!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm back...

The conference was great. It was terrific to spend 3 days among economic historians. Soon I will write posts about the work of the colleagues that I met there.
Now I am back to real life. Yet no symptoms of the flu.
(By the way, the post bellow was already scheduled before the outbreak. Just plain coincidence.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More or Less by Tim Harford

A new series of one my favorite radio shows. In the first show Tim Harford investigates the costs drug prohibition.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Latin American Economies: History and Globalization

Conference sponsored by the Center for Economic History da UCLA. I am going to LA in a few hours and I'll back on Monday. The conference papers are available for download.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is the crisis over?

Nicholas Bloom forecasted the 2009 crisis (take a look at his cool graph of stock market volatility since 1880). Now he says that uncertainty is falling and recovery in on the way.

Joaquim Nabuco, British Abolitionists, and the End of Slavery in Brazil: Correspondence 1880-1905

The Institute for the Study of the Americas is pleased to invite you to the launch of

Joaquim Nabuco, British Abolitionists and the End of Slavery in Brazil
edited by Leslie Bethell and José Murilo de Carvalho

Wednesday 22 April at 4.30pm
Venue: Conference Room, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Charles Clore House, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR

Contact: or 020 7862 8871

A little studied aspect of the struggle to abolish slavery in Brazil in the 1880s is the relationship established and maintained between Joaquim Nabuco, the leading Brazilian abolitionist, and the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in London. The correspondence between Nabuco and Charles Harris Allen, Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, and other British abolitionists throughout the decade and beyond reveals a partnership consciously sought by Nabuco in order to internationalise the struggle. These letters provide a unique insight into the evolution of Nabuco's thinking on both slavery and abolition and at the same time a running commentary on the slow and (at least until 1887) uncertain progress of the abolitionist cause in Brazil.

Leslie Bethell is Emeritus Professor of Latin American History at the University of London, Emeritus Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, Senior Research Fellow at the Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil, Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Rio de Janeiro and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. He is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Institute for the Study of the Americas.

José Murilo de Carvalho is Professor of History at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

Compre na Amazon aqui (US$30).

Monday, April 20, 2009

The bank that had Christopher Columbus account

Banco di San Giorgio was the creator of:
- Government bonds;
- Double-entry book-keeping;
among many other things....
(a Giuseppe Felloni's bilingual book about the bank is available here for free)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Markets in Everything ... maybe not

"Somewhere out there is a company that has actually figured out how to enlarge penises, and it is helpless to reach out potential consumers"


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cambridge Centre for Quantitative Economic History

Maybe I've already blogged about this group, but here it goes.
By the way, I finally updated the blogroll.

Historical National Accounts

(HT Shikida)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Useful links for a world in crisis

Sourcetone: a music therapy on-line radio. (listeners outside the US face limitations);
Taxi fare calculator: World and Brazil. (HT: Ricardo Freire);
Ubuntu Pocket Guide;
Quick R: R for stata, spss and SAS users;
Vuze: by far the best torrent client for Windows and Linux;
Monty Python - The Movies (6 Disc Box Set) for 11 GBP (16 USD)!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Economics 2.0 by Häring and Storbeck

The book aims the non-specialist curious about the last decade of results from the Economics research (mainly empirical). It covers some topics that other economics-for-the-masses-books also deal: Behavioral Economics, Economics of Happiness, Discrimination, Game Theory. Moreover, it is has chapters on: Anthropometric History, History of Globalization, Efficient Market Hypothesis, Economics of Sports and even a chapter on the subprime crisis.

Highly recommended for non-specialists and for over specialized economists drowning in pdf's an willing to have an overview of other areas.

(Disclosure: I received the book as a gift from the editors.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It is really strange world...

when I just can not notice anymore what it is April fool's day or true science.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How Economics can get you a date

By Tim Harford, my favourite pop Economics writer:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I have just left UFPel for a position as professor of Economics at the Center for Engineering, Modeling and Applied Social Sciences at UFABC, São Paulo, Brazil.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The legacy of slavery

Nathan Nunn has published amazing papers on the economic legacy of slave trade for the development of Africa (his paper with Diego Puga is impressive as well). Now his paper with Leonard Wantchekon shows that "individuals whose ancestors were heavily raided during the slave trade today exhibit less trust in neighbors, relatives, and their local government".

HT Claudio Shikida.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

If Pollock were a graph designer

Forget Andrew Gelman and his clean graphs. The new style is Pollock-esque.
Congratulations to Ian!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Inequality in Latin America was low

Stop the press and read Jeffrey Williamson's paper. I haven't read it yet, but I am wondering if the results hold if you consider the concepts of inequality possibility frontier and the inequality extraction ratio.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Poll: the best title for an Economics paper

I came across "Poor, Hungry and Stupid: Numeracy and the Impact of High Food Prices in Industrializing Britain, 1780-1850" and it remind me the role of a good title. A title that forces you to read the whole paper. From the top of my mind, I suggest two contestants: "I just ran two million regressions" and "Das Human Kapital". Any suggestion?

Friday, February 27, 2009

"It is the demography, stupid"

The homicide rate in São Paulo dropped from 52 to 24 per 100.000 between 1999 and 2005. The usual explanations were quite unconvincing, but João Manoel Pinho De Mello and Alexandre Schneider have shown that changes in the demographic structure of the population can explain a large share of that drop. A must read if you are interested in violence in Brazil.

University of California at Berkeley: two syllabus

I bet that there will be no empty seats at Prof. Eichengreen's The World Economy in the Twentieth Century and at Prof.Voth's Financial Crises, Bubbles, and Crashes

HT Brad Delong.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Private Tooth Decay as Public Economic Virtue

The paper starts with a quote from Thomas and Bean (1974):
The only group of clear gainers of British trans-atlantic slave trade, and even those gains were small, were European consumers of sugar and tobacco and other plantation crops. They were given the chance to purchase dental decay and lung cancer at somewhat lower price than would have been the case without the slave trade.
And takes another direction, arguing for the role of sugar as a mass-consumption commodity in the protoindustrialization of Europe.
HT to Brad Delong. You must read the general notes of his class.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Whipple's index in R

The index measures the degree of age heaping in demographic data. Joerg Baten have been applying it to appraise the numeracy of historical populations. Surely there is neater way to do it, but here is the code in R that I've just written:
tmp1<-data[data>=23 & data<=62]

Monday, February 23, 2009

Graph of regression results

Thanks to the R code written by the guys at Tables2Graphs (take a look at the blog of Eduardo Leoni, one of the authors), I've managed to get the graph bellow. It represents the estimated coefficients of a regression concerning the height of workers born between 1889-1921 and registered at Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Click here for amazing R graphs.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

É Carnaval!!!

There is an alternative if you can not do the samba. You may join the contest "Dance your PhD". The winners of 2009 are here. Take a look at "Cerebral activation patterns induced by inflection of regular and irregular verbs with positron emission tomography. A comparison between single subject and group analysis". It is a perfect substitute for the written thesis (I guess).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Marx and the current crisis

{Sigh} Oh boy... I've never thought that I would miss the good old Internet hoaxes. The quote bellow just hit my mail box:
"Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalised, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism (Das Kapital, 1867)"
My research assistant confirms that - not surprisingly - Marx never wrote this.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cuture and Development

"...we still suffer from vestigial traces of a prejudice against 'trade', left over from the days when the aristocracy and landed gentry lived off the rents from their land and estates, and did not engage in anything so vulgar as the making and selling of goods."
A pretty good portrait of Brazil, isn't it? Due to its history, the Brazilian culture opposes entrepreneurship or money making activities, and this has been an obstacle for development. Damn Portuguese colonization! At least this is what lots of people say...
Funny enough, the quote above is about the English and not the Brazilians! The author, Kate Fox, shows that traces of a aristocracy mentality explain many issues of contemporary English people. ( Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, an excellent anthropology for non-anthropologists - book. Strongly recommended.)
The English prejudice against trade didn't hinder the Industrial Revolution at all. My point is that, by the same token, the aristocratic and slave-holding mentality of Brazilians is not the reason why the country fell behind. Well, but this is only my opinion.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Economist on Darwin

A great article on the Theory of Evolution, that deals with the precursors of the idea. Here scientists tell what would do if they had dinner with Mr. Darwin.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Economic History Blog

(Memo to myself: update blogroll. Stop procrastinating)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why do I learn French?

The reason is not the music, food or tourism. Some time ago, I grabbed a copy of Leroy-Beaulieu's De la colonisation chez les peuples modernes (1874) . It seems that he created the concept of "colonies of settlement" and "colonies of exploitation" (Roscher may have said something similar. I bought his book, but I gave up learning German 20 years ago). Every schoolboy in Brazil learns the diference between exploitation and settlement colonies thanks to Caio Prado Jr, a marxist historian. One day, I may write about the intelectual evolution of these concepts. A possible title of the paper: "From Roscher to Acemoglu"...Would anyone like to participate in this project?

(There was another reason to learn Frech: reading Thisse et al. textbook on Regional Economics, but I've just found out that it has been published in English as well. )

Friday, February 6, 2009

Inequality and Innovation in the US

From Our Own Correspondent is the best radio show since the day that Marconi had a great working day. BBC journalists analyse current affairs around the world based on their personal experiences. In a recent edition, Justin Webb starts with the sad fact that his child had just been diagnosed with diabetes to write about inequality, profit, and innovation in America.
(While you are there, check out this one on Fortaleza, Brazil)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gmail offline!


The Consolation of Economic History

Brad Delong, the wise, writes:

The current recession may turn into a small depression, and may push global living standards down by five percent for one or two or (we hope not) five years, but that does not erase the gulf between those of us in the globe's middle and upper classes and all human existence prior to the Industrial Revolution.
The 18th Century British family could buy 17 copies of the Wealth of Nations out of its annual income. The American family in 2009 can buy 6,000 copies: a multiplication factor of 350.
I'm convinced that everyone I know can easily imagine how to spend up to three times their current income usefully and productively. (It is only beyond three times your current spending that people judge others' spending as absurd and wasteful.) And everybody I know finds it very difficult to imagine how people can survive on less than one-third of what they spend—never mind that all of our pre-industrial ancestors did so all the time.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Acemoglu's "Introducion to Modern Economic Growth"

The winner of the John Bates Clark medal finally launches his book on Growth. Something tells me that very soon every graduate student of Economics in the world will be carrying it around. It is a bargain: US$61 for 1000 pages!
The impressive Table of Contents and sample chapters are available here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Did Railroads Induce or Follow Economic Growth? Urbanization and Population Growth in the American Midwest, 1850-60

Jeremy Atack, Fred Bateman, Michael Haines, Robert A. Margo say:
For generations of scholars and observers, the "transportation revolution," especially the railroad, has loomed large as a dominant factor in the settlement and development of the United States in the nineteenth century. There has, however, been considerable debate as to whether transportation improvements led economic development or simply followed. Using a newly developed GIS transportation database we examine this issue in the context of the American Midwest, focusing on two indicators of broader economic change, population density and the fraction of population living in urban areas. Our difference in differences estimates (supported by IV robustness checks) strongly suggest that the coming of the railroad had little or no impact upon population densities just as Albert Fishlow concluded some 40 years ago. BUT, our results also imply that the railroad was the "cause" of midwestern urbanization, accounting for more than half of the increase in the fraction of population living in urban areas during the 1850s.

That is exactly the kind of paper in economic history that I love. Lots of historical data + GIS database + econometrics= an answer to an interesting question.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Who survived the Titanic?

Frey, Savage and Torgler have shown that the social rule "women and children first" was respected while the boat sunk. Another interesting result (despite being quite expected): the dummy "English" reduced the chances of survival, while "American" increased. Politeness has its costs. More on the subject.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Breaking the Grouxo Marx Principle

There was only one club that I would like to join and would (hopefully) accept me: The Flat Earth Society. But I've just discovered another association that I support without reserves.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Best economics paper of 1959

Following the tradition of this blog, here goes my choice of paper that celebrates its 50th year. There is Herbert Simon's paper, but my very personal choice goes to a work from Douglass North that does not rank among his most popular ones:
North, Douglass. "Agriculture in Regional Economic Growth. Journal of Farm Economics, v. 51, 943-51
He extends his 1955 paper, and shows the role of the distribution of wealth and the production function on long run regional growth. A must read for regional economists and economic historians.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Urbanization data for Brazil

A very nice piece on Zipf's Law in Brazil and in the US. Unfortunately there is a problem: the quality of the data on urbanization in Brazil. José Eli da Veiga has stressed how unreliable and insane are the 1938 official criteria on definition of urban areas in Brazil. Official data on urban population in Brazil is hugely overestimated and weirdly related to the number of municipalities created. Therefore, historical trends on urbanization in Brazil are unreliable and international comparisons should be avoided.
Recently, Embrapa used satellite images to identify urban areas and this is the best data that you can get. (The main limitation, obviously, is that there is no historical data)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Greg Clark responds to his critics

Here. More posts on Farewell to Alms.
Addendum: Greg Clark did something really rude in his reply that I'll not mention here.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Paranoia is fun

My New Year's resolution is to do the same thing:

xkcd is terrific. Really.