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Violence and economic activity: evidence from African American patents, 1870–1940

  • Lisa Cook


Recent studies have examined the effect of political conflict and domestic terrorism on economic and political outcomes. This paper uses the rise in mass violence between 1870 and 1940 as an historical experiment for determining the impact of ethnic and political violence on economic activity, namely patenting. I find that violent acts account for more than 1,100 missing patents compared to 726 actual patents among African American inventors over this period. Valuable patents decline in response to major riots and segregation laws. Absence of the rule of law covaries with declines in patent productivity for white and black inventors, but this decline is significant only for African American inventors. Patenting responds positively to declines in violence. These findings imply that ethnic and political conflict may affect the level, direction, and quality of invention and economic growth over time. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Economic Growth.

Volume (Year): 19 (2014)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Pages: 221-257

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jecgro:v:19:y:2014:i:2:p:221-257
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