Contributions to the Berkeley Economic History Laboratory (BEHL) Working Papers series are from visitors and other affiliates of the BEHL. These papers are preliminary works, and their circulation is intended to stimulate discussion and comment. Please contact the author with comments or before referencing or quoting a paper. To inquire about contributing a working paper to the series contact Professor Barry Eichengreen.
Capital Is Back: Wealth-Income Ratios in Rich Countries 1700-2010 | BEHL WP2013-10 | Thomas Piketty and Gabriel Zucman, 26 July 2013 | Abstract How do aggregate wealth-to income ratios evolve in the long run and why? We address this question using 1970-2010 national balance sheets recently compiled in the top eight developed economies. For the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France, we are able to extend our analysis as far back as 1700. We find in every country a gradual rise of wealth-income ratios in recent decades, from about 200-300% in 1970 to 400-600% in 2010. In effect, today’s ratios appear to be returning to the high values observed in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries(600-700%). This can be explained by a long run asset price recovery (itself driven by changes in capital policies since the world wars) and by the slowdown of productivity and population growth, in line with the ß = s/g Harrod-Domar-Solow formula. That is, for a given net saving rate s = 10%, the long run wealth-income ratio ß is about 300% if g = 3%, and 600% if g = 1.5%. Our results have important implications for capital taxation and regulation and shed new light on the changing nature of wealth, the shape of the production function, and the rise of capital shares.
Railroad Expansion and Entrepreneurship: Evidence from Meiji Japan | BEHL WP2013-09 | John Tang, September 2013 | Abstract Railroads in Meiji Japan are credited with
facilitating factor mobility as well as access to human and financial capital, but the direct impact on firms is unclear. Using prefecture‐level industry data and a difference-in- differences model that exploits the temporal and spatial variation of railroad expansion, I
assess the relationship between railways and firm activity across Japan. Results indicate that while rail access corresponds to lower firm numbers, total and average firm capitalization increase after controlling for market size and geography. These latter findings apply particularly to the manufacturing and service sectors, respectively, and coupled with decreased firms activity in areas with longer coastlines and larger populations, are consistent with industrial agglomeration and slower industrial growth in newly integrated markets.
The Eurozone Crisis: Phoenix Miracle or Lost Decade? | BEHL WP2013-08 | Barry Eichengreen, Naeun Jung, Stephen Moch and Ashoka Mody, May 2013
The Mother of All Sudden Stops: Capital Flows and Reversals in Europe, 1919-1932 | BEHL WP2013-07 | Olivier Accominotti and Barry Eichengreen, July 2013 | Abstract We present new data documenting European capital issues in major financial centers from 1919 to 1932. Push factors (conditions in international capital markets) perform better than pull factors (conditions in the borrowing countries) in explaining the surge and reversal in capital flows. In particular, the sharp increase in stock market volatility in the major financial centers at the end of the 1920s figured importantly in the decline in foreign lending. We draw parallels with Europe today.
Fiscal Policy and Economic Recovery: The Case of the 1936 Veterans’ Bonus | BEHL WP2013-06 | Joshua K. Hausman, June 2013 | Abstract Conventional wisdom has it that in the 1930s fiscal policy did not work because it was not tried. This paper shows that fiscal policy, though inadvertent, was tried in 1936, and a variety of evidence suggests that it worked. A deficit-financed veterans’ bonus provided 3.2 million World War I veterans with cash and bond payments totaling 2 percent of GDP; the typical veteran received a payment equal to annual per capita personal income. This paper uses time-series and cross-sectional data to identify the effects of the bonus. I exploit four sources of quantitative evidence: a detailed household consumption survey, cross-state and cross-city regressions, aggregate time-series, and a previously unused American Legion survey of veterans. The evidence paints a consistent picture in which veterans quickly spent the majority of their bonus. Spending was concentrated on cars and housing in particular. Narrative accounts support these quantitative results. A simple calculation suggests that the bonus added 2.5 to 3 percentage points to 1936 GDP growth.
The Political Economy of Educational Content and Development: | BEHL WP2013-05 | Davide Cantoni and Noam Yuchtman, 21 March 2013 | Abstract Beyond years of schooling, educational content can play an important role in the process of economic development. Individuals’ choices of educational content are often shaped by the political economy of government policies that determine the incentives to acquire various skills. We first present a model in which differences in human capital investments emerge as an equilibrium outcome of private decisions and government policy choices. We then illustrate these dynamics in two historical circumstances. In medieval Europe, states and the Church found individuals trained in Roman law valuable, and eventually supported productive investments in this new form of human capital. In late 19th-century China, elites were threatened by the introduction of Western science and engineering and continued to select civil servants—who enjoyed substantial rents—based on their knowledge of the Confucian classics; as a result, investments in productive, modern human capital were not made.
Goods, Services, and the Pace of Economic Recovery | BEHL WP2013-04 | Martha L. Olney and Aaron Pacitti, March 2013 | Abstract Do service-based economies experience slower economic recoveries than goods-based economies? We argue they do. An economy recovers from a downturn when businesses increase production. Both goods and services can be produced in response to actual demand. But only goods—and not services—can be produced in response to anticipated increases in demand, allowing optimistic forward-looking producers to inventory goods until anticipated buyers appear. Services can’t be inventoried. The more services an economy produces relative to goods, the more production is dependent upon only actual increases in demand, and the slower the recovery. We exploit variation across time and states in the share of services in output. Controlling for the depth of the downturn, the higher is the share of services, the longer is the recovery. Extending our results to the current downturn, given the depth of the downturn, the rise in services alone will make the post-2009 recovery last about 1 year longer than it would have a half-century ago.
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The Grammatical Origins of Gender Roles | BEHL WP2013-03 | Victor Gay, Estefania Santacreu-Vasut and Amir Shoham, 22 April 2013 | Abstract We investigate the relation between gender marking in grammar and female participation in the labor market, the credit market, land ownership, and politics. Cross-country and individual-level analyses reveal that women speaking languages that more pervasively mark gender distinctions are less likely to participate in economic and political life and more likely to encounter barriers in their access to land and credit. These findings are robust to a large set of controls and robustness checks. We also found that the impact of a language’s gender structure remains after controlling for culture, for historical agricultural use of the plough.
Financing a Planned Economy: Institutions and Credit Allocation in the French Golden Age of Growth (1954-1974) | BEHL WP2013-02 | Eric Monnet, September 2012 | Abstract The role of banking and finance in the Golden Age of European growth (1950-1973) is very little known and widely underestimated. This paper studies the French system of economic planning and investment-based strategy that enhanced medium and long-term financing (called “investment credit” at that time). First, I describe the new institutions that were built after WWII to organize credit allocation. I especially highlight the role of the central bank through the National Credit Council. I then use a newly constructed database that matches the amount of credit (that had to be registered at the Banque of France) in 49 sectors to corporate tax sectoral statistics. It shows a significant positive relationship between investment credit and the marginal product of capital. The allocation of medium/long-term credit managed to favor the allocation of productive capital across sectors and thus to ensure the catch-up process. Using GMM estimations in order to avoid the endogeneity bias, I find that the effect of “investment credit” on growth is significant and positive, contrary to short-term credit which did not play any role for investment. Understanding the institutional framework that shaped the mechanisms and success of credit policy in the French mixed economy during the 50s and 60s also helps to understand its failures during the mid-70s.
State Capacity and Long-Run Performance | BEHL WP2013-01 | Mark Dincecco & Gabriel Katz, October 2012 | Abstract We present new evidence about the long-term links between state capacity and economic performance. Our database is novel and spans 11 countries and 4 centuries in Europe, the birthplace of modern economic growth. Using standard panel data methods, we find that the performance impacts of states with modern extractive and productive capabilities are significant, large, and robust to a wide variety of specifications, controls, and modeling techniques.