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.