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Economic shocks, inter-ethnic complementarities and the persecution of minorities: Evidence from the Black Death


  • Noel Johnson

    () (George Mason University)

  • Mark Koyama

    () (George Mason University)

  • Remi Jebwab

    () (George Washington University)


"In this paper we study the Black Death persecutions (1347-1352) against Jews inorder to shed light on the factors determining when a minority group will face perse-cution. We develop a theoretical framework which predicts that negative shocks in-crease the likelihood that minorities are scapegoated and persecuted. By contrast, as theshocks become more severe, persecution probability may actually decrease if there areeconomic complementarities between the majority and minority groups. We compilecity-level data on Black Death mortality and Jewish persecution. At an aggregate levelwe find that scapegoating led to an increase in the baseline probability of a persecution.However, at the city-level, locations which experienced higher plague mortality rateswere less likely to engage in persecutions. Furthermore, persecutions were more likelyin cities with a history of antisemitism (consistent with scapegoating) and less likelyin cities where Jews played an important economic role (consistent with inter-groupcomplementarities)."

Suggested Citation

  • Noel Johnson & Mark Koyama & Remi Jebwab, 2017. "Economic shocks, inter-ethnic complementarities and the persecution of minorities: Evidence from the Black Death," Working Papers 17012, Economic History Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehs:wpaper:17012

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    More about this item


    Ethnic Conflict; Religious Conflict; Minorities; Persecutions; Massacres; Libels; Black Death; Jewish Economic History; Middle Ages; Epidemics; Cities; Trade;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics

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