Δευτέρα, 15 Απριλίου 2019


From boom to bust: a typology of real commodity prices in the long run


This paper considers the evidence on real commodity prices from 1900 to 2015 for 40 commodities, representing 8.72 trillion US dollars of production in 2011. In doing so, it suggests and documents a comprehensive typology of real commodity prices, comprising long-run trends, medium-run cycles, and short-run boom/bust episodes. The main findings can be summarized as follows: (1) real commodity prices have been on the rise—albeit modestly—from 1950; (2) there is a pattern—in both past and present—of commodity price cycles, entailing large and long-lived deviations from underlying trends; (3) these commodity price cycles are themselves punctuated by boom/bust episodes which are historically pervasive.

The impact of labour policies on Canadian gold mines in World War II


This paper uses a financial and operational data set of Canadian gold mines between 1939 and 1945 to analyse the efficacy of two government labour market policies implemented in World War II. An early war policy designated the gold mining industry as vital for the war effort to boost gold output in order to purchase foreign reserves. The late war policy resulted in restrictions that prevented labour movement into and between the mines. We find that the first policy is largely ineffective in its goal. Although the market allocated labour to the lowest cost producers, the policy caused only a modest increase in gold output. To evaluate the second policy, we estimate the cost curves of the individual mines. The results indicate an inefficient allocation of labour across mines. The gold mining industry experiences operating costs 22% higher than with efficient labour allocation during this late war period. The estimated efficiency loss to the industry is nearly $58.4 million 1940 Canadian dollars.

Welfare reform, 1834: Did the New Poor Law in England produce significant economic gains?


The English Old Poor Law, which before 1834 provided welfare to the elderly, children, the improvident, and the unfortunate, was a bête noire of the new discipline of Political Economy. Smith, Bentham, Malthus, and Ricardo all claimed it created significant social costs and increased rather than reduced poverty. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, drafted by Political Economists, cuts payments sharply. Because local rules on eligibility and provision varied greatly before the 1834 reform, we can estimate the social costs of the extensive welfare provision of the Old Poor Law. Surprisingly there is no evidence of any of the alleged social costs that prompted the harsh treatment of the poor after 1834. Political economy, it seems, was born in sin.

Distinct within North America: living standards in French Canada, 1688–1775


I use a novel dataset of prices and wages from the French colony of Quebec (Canada's second largest province today) to measure colonial-era living standards. Following Allen's (Explor Econ Hist 38(4):411–447, 2001; The British industrial revolution in global perspective, Cambridge University, Cambridge, 2009; Econ Hist Rev 68(1):1–22, 2015) welfare-ratios approach, I find that Quebec was poorer than the American colonies and London, but somewhat richer than Paris and Southern England. The Quebec–Paris comparison is sensitive to changes in the basket used to compare wages. Shifting from a bare bones basket to a respectable basket, Quebec loses its advantage over Paris, but remains poorer than the American colonies and London.

Regional prices in early twentieth-century Spain: a country-product-dummy approach


This paper explores regional price variation in early twentieth-century Spain. Using consumer price information from the bulletins published by the Instituto de Reformas Sociales between 1910 and 1920, we build a dataset with a total of 40,581 quotes covering 22 items for each of the 49 provinces. We then estimate provincial price levels following a country-product-dummy (CPD) approach. Our findings suggest that spatial price variation existed across Spanish provinces. In line with the Balassa–Samuelson conjecture, consumer prices and productivity levels were somewhat related. Additionally, it is shown that prices rose in all provinces after the outbreak of World War I. Even more, it appears that this demand-shock brought about spatial asymmetries in price growth.

Human lifetime entropy in a historical perspective (1750–2014)


This paper uses Shannon's entropy index to the base 2 to quantify the risk relative to the age at death in terms of bits (i.e. the amount of information revealed by tossing a fair coin). We first provide a simple decomposition of Shannon's lifetime entropy index that allows us to analyse the determinants of lifetime entropy (in particular its relation with Wiener's entropy of the event "death at a particular age conditional on survival to that age") and to study how the risk about the duration of life is resolved as the individual becomes older. Then, using data on 37 countries from the Human Mortality Database, we show that, over the last two centuries, (period) lifetime entropy at birth has exhibited, in all countries, an inverted-U shape pattern with a maximum in the first half of the twentieth century (at 6 bits), and reaches, in the early twenty-first century, 5.6 bits for men and 5.5 bits for women. It is also shown that the entropy age profile shifted from a non-monotonic profile (in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) to a strictly decreasing profile (in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries).

The impact of the 1932 General Tariff: a difference-in-difference approach


We evaluate the effect of the 1932 British General Tariff on the output, labour productivity and employment growth of British industries. We provide a new disaggregated data set that matches industry-level Census of Production data with industry-specific tariff rates to accurately isolate treatment and control groups and estimate the effect of the General Tariff using difference-in-difference regressions. We evaluate a two-group comparison, between newly and non-newly protected industries, and a three-group comparison, between non-newly protected industries and newly protected industries further divided into those given a baseline 10% tariff rate and those given additional tariffs. In the two-group comparison, we identify a tariff effect that is large and statistically significant on output and productivity. In the three-group comparison, we show that the positive output and productivity effects of the tariff arise from the additional tariff protection, over and above the 10% level. These effects are observed over the periods 1930–1935 and 1930–1948, suggesting both short-run and medium-term effects on output and productivity of UK industries protected by the 1932 General Tariff.

The introduction of the reserve clause in Major League Baseball: evidence of its impact on select player salaries during the 1880s


This paper investigates the impact of baseball's reserve clause as it evolved from a "gentleman's agreement" to a formal contract stipulation. Using data describing the salaries of 34 Major League Baseball players during the 1880s, we test whether average salaries, remuneration to marginal product, and the premium paid to a player for changing teams were materially impacted when the reserve clause became binding in 1887. The empirical results suggest that, controlling for player attributes and the overall macroeconomy, average real salaries in the sample fell by 6–9% after the binding reserve clause. We also find that the premium for moving to a new team was reduced by 70% after the binding reserve clause was implemented, supporting Rottenberg's invariance principle.

Monetary and fiscal interactions in the USA during the 1940s


It is generally assumed that the buildup of liquid assets in the USA during WWII played a large role in generating postwar economic activity. Contrary to this assumption, I establish that military contract spending during the war slowed down the growth of bank balance sheets at the state level during the period 1940–1955. State-level bank balance sheets are 10.8 cents smaller per $1 of total military spending by 1949 and 5.8 cents smaller by 1955. This is primarily driven by slower growth of demand deposits. The adjustment on the asset side is largely through reserves and Treasury holdings. Local lending also grows more slowly after the war, but this decrease is relatively small and temporary. This suggests that the local real economy was largely insulated from the slower growth in deposits by the wartime buildup of paper assets. Historical evidence points to the fact that slower growth of deposits is likely driven by a relative decline in demand for deposits by large corporations in war industries.

Key forces behind the decline of fertility: lessons from childlessness in Rouen before the industrial revolution


To better understand the forces underlying fertility decisions, we look at the forerunners of fertility decline. In Rouen, France, completed fertility dropped between 1640 and 1792 from 7.4 to 4.2 children. We review possible explanations and keep only three: increases in materialism, in women's empowerment, and in returns to education. The methodology is one of analytic narrative, bringing together descriptive evidence with a theoretical model. We accordingly propose a theory showing that we can discriminate between these explanations by looking at childlessness and its social gradient. An increase in materialism or, under certain conditions, in women's empowerment, leads to an increase in childlessness, while an increase in the return to education leads to a decrease in childlessness. Looking at the Rouen data, childlessness was clearly on the rise, from 4% in 1640 to 10% at the end of the eighteenth century, which appears to discredit the explanation based on increasing returns to education, at least for this period.

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