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Women, Rails and Telegraphs: An Empirical Study of Information Diffusion and Collective Action

Author

Listed:
  • Camilo García-Jimeno
  • Angel Iglesias
  • Pinar Yildirim

Abstract

How do social interactions shape collective action, and how are they mediated by the availability of networked information technologies? To answer these questions, we study the Temperance Crusade, one of the earliest instances of organized political mobilization by women in the U.S. This wave of protest activity against liquor dealers spread between the winter of 1873 and the summer of 1874, covering more than 800 towns in 29 states. We first provide causal evidence of social interactions driving the diffusion of the protest wave, and estimate the roles played by information traveling along railroad and telegraph networks. We do this by relying on exogenous variation in the rail network links generated by railroad worker strikes and railroad accidents. We also develop an event-study methodology to estimate the complementarity between rail and telegraph networks in driving the spread of the Crusade. We find that railroad and telegraph-mediated information about neighboring protest activity were main drivers of the diffusion of the protest movement. We also find strong complementarities between both networks. Using variation in the types of protest activities of neighboring towns and in the aggregate patterns of the diffusion process, we also find suggestive evidence of social learning as a key mechanism behind the effect of information on protest adoption.

Suggested Citation

  • Camilo García-Jimeno & Angel Iglesias & Pinar Yildirim, 2018. "Women, Rails and Telegraphs: An Empirical Study of Information Diffusion and Collective Action," NBER Working Papers 24495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24495
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mary A. Burke & Gary M. Fournier & Kislaya Prasad, 2007. "The Diffusion of a Medical Innovation: Is Success in the Stars?," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 588-603, January.
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    5. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 815-842.
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    7. Andreas Madestam & Daniel Shoag & Stan Veuger & David Yanagizawa-Drott, 2013. "Do Political Protests Matter? Evidence from the Tea Party Movement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(4), pages 1633-1685.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N71 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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