IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/26754.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Historical Natural Experiments: Bridging Economics and Economic History

Author

Listed:
  • Davide Cantoni
  • Noam Yuchtman

Abstract

The analysis of historical natural experiments has profoundly impacted economics research across fields. We trace the development and increasing application of the methodology, both from the perspective of economic historians and from the perspective of economists in other subdisciplines. We argue that the historical natural experiment represents a methodological bridge between economic history and other fields: historians are able to use the cutting edge identification strategies emphasized by applied microeconomists; economists across subfields are able to scour history for useful identifying variation; development and growth economists are able to trace the historical roots of contemporary outcomes. Differences in fields suggest differences in scholars' aims of studying historical natural experiments. We propose a taxonomy of three primary motives that reflect priorities in different fields: historians aim to understand causal processes within specific settings. Economists across fields aim to identify "clean" historical events (in whatever context) to test hypotheses of theoretical interest or estimate causal parameters. And, growth and development economists aim to identify past variation that can be causally linked to contemporary outcomes of interest. We summarize important contributions made by research in each category. Finally, we close with a brief discussion of challenges facing each category of work.

Suggested Citation

  • Davide Cantoni & Noam Yuchtman, 2020. "Historical Natural Experiments: Bridging Economics and Economic History," NBER Working Papers 26754, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26754
    Note: DAE DEV LS POL
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w26754.pdf
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text is generally limited to series subscribers, however if the top level domain of the client browser is in a developing country or transition economy free access is provided. More information about subscriptions and free access is available at http://www.nber.org/wwphelp.html. Free access is also available to older working papers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Heblich, Stephan & Redding, Stephen J. & Sturm, Daniel M, 2018. "The Making of the Modern Metropolis: Evidence from London," CEPR Discussion Papers 13170, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
    3. Stephen J. Redding & Daniel M. Sturm & Nikolaus Wolf, 2011. "History and Industry Location: Evidence from German Airports," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 814-831, August.
    4. Grant Miller, 2008. "Women's Suffrage, Political Responsiveness, and Child Survival in American History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 1287-1327.
    5. Daron Acemoglu & Tarek A. Hassan & James A. Robinson, 2011. "Social Structure and Development: A Legacy of the Holocaust in Russia," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 895-946.
    6. Carola Frydman & Raven E. Saks, 2010. "Executive Compensation: A New View from a Long-Term Perspective, 1936--2005," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(5), pages 2099-2138.
    7. Valerie A. Ramey, 2011. "Identifying Government Spending Shocks: It's all in the Timing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 1-50.
    8. Vasiliki Fouka & Soumyajit Mazumder & Marco Tabellini, 2018. "From Immigrants to Americans: Race and Assimilation during the Great Migration," Harvard Business School Working Papers 19-018, Harvard Business School, revised Jun 2019.
    9. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Cantoni & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2011. "The Consequences of Radical Reform: The French Revolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3286-3307, December.
    10. Stephen J. Redding & Daniel M. Sturm, 2008. "The Costs of Remoteness: Evidence from German Division and Reunification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1766-1797, December.
    11. Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt & Stephen J. Redding & Daniel M. Sturm & Nikolaus Wolf, 2015. "The Economics of Density: Evidence From the Berlin Wall," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83, pages 2127-2189, November.
    12. David Card, 1990. "The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(2), pages 245-257, January.
    13. Esther Duflo, 2001. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of School Construction in Indonesia: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 795-813, September.
    14. Richard Hornbeck, 2010. "Barbed Wire: Property Rights and Agricultural Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 767-810.
    15. Craft, Erik D, 1998. "The Value of Weather Information Services for Nineteenth-Century Great Lakes Shipping," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1059-1076, December.
    16. Davide Cantoni & Jeremiah Dittmar & Noam Yuchtman, 2018. "Religious Competition and Reallocation: the Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(4), pages 2037-2096.
    17. Driva, Anastasia & Bauernschuster, Stefan & Hornung, Erik, 2016. "Bismarck’s Health Insurance and the Mortality Decline," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145577, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    18. Robert A. Margo, 2018. "The integration of economic history into economics," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 12(3), pages 377-406, September.
    19. Watzinger, Martin & Fackler, Thomas A. & Nagler, Markus, 2017. "How Antitrust Enforcement Can Spur Innovation," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 4, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    20. Alberto Alesina & Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, 2007. "Goodbye Lenin (or Not?): The Effect of Communism on People," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1507-1528, September.
    21. Angrist, Joshua D, 1990. "Lifetime Earnings and the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery: Evidence from Social Security Administrative Records," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 313-336, June.
    22. Thomas Piketty & Gilles Postel-Vinay & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 2006. "Wealth Concentration in a Developing Economy: Paris and France, 1807–1994," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 236-256, March.
    23. Guo Xu, 2018. "The Costs of Patronage: Evidence from the British Empire," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(11), pages 3170-3198, November.
    24. Murat Iyigun, 2008. "Luther and Suleyman," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1465-1494.
    25. Maja Adena & Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Veronica Santarosa & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2015. "Radio and the Rise of The Nazis in Prewar Germany," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(4), pages 1885-1939.
    26. Miriam Bruhn & Francisco A. Gallego, 2012. "Good, Bad, and Ugly Colonial Activities: Do They Matter for Economic Development?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(2), pages 433-461, May.
    27. Robert J. Barro, 1991. "Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 407-443.
    28. McCloskey, Donald N, 1976. "Does the Past Have Useful Economics?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 14(2), pages 434-461, June.
    29. Louis Putterman & David N. Weil, 2010. "Post-1500 Population Flows and The Long-Run Determinants of Economic Growth and Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1627-1682.
    30. Anna Aizer & Shari Eli & Joseph Ferrie & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2016. "The Long-Run Impact of Cash Transfers to Poor Families," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(4), pages 935-971, April.
    31. Fernihough, Alan & O'Rourke, Kevin Hjortshøj, 2014. "Coal and the European Industrial Revolution," CEPR Discussion Papers 9819, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    32. Davide Cantoni, 2015. "The Economic Effects Of The Protestant Reformation: Testing The Weber Hypothesis In The German Lands," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 561-598, August.
    33. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson & James J. Feigenbaum & Santiago Pérez, 2019. "Automated Linking of Historical Data," NBER Working Papers 25825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    34. Matranga, Andrea, 2017. "The Ant and the Grasshopper: Seasonality and the Invention of Agriculture," MPRA Paper 76626, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    35. Alberto Alesina & Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln, 2005. "Good bye Lenin (or not?): The effect of Communism on people's preferences," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2076, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    36. Guido W. Imbens & Donald B. Rubin & Bruce I. Sacerdote, 2001. "Estimating the Effect of Unearned Income on Labor Earnings, Savings, and Consumption: Evidence from a Survey of Lottery Players," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 778-794, September.
    37. Mara P. Squicciarini & Nico Voigtländer, 2015. "Human Capital and Industrialization: Evidence from the Age of Enlightenment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(4), pages 1825-1883.
    38. Daniel M. Bernhofen & John C. Brown, 2004. "A Direct Test of the Theory of Comparative Advantage: The Case of Japan," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(1), pages 48-67, February.
    39. Hendricks, Kenneth & Porter, Robert H, 1988. "An Empirical Study of an Auction with Asymmetric Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 865-883, December.
    40. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864.
    41. Lakshmi Iyer, 2010. "Direct versus Indirect Colonial Rule in India: Long-Term Consequences," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 693-713, November.
    42. Ulrike Malmendier & Stefan Nagel, 2011. "Depression Babies: Do Macroeconomic Experiences Affect Risk Taking?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 373-416.
    43. Donald R. Davis & David E. Weinstein, 2002. "Bones, Bombs, and Break Points: The Geography of Economic Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1269-1289, December.
    44. Maja Adena & Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Veronica Santarosa & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2015. "Radio and the Rise of The Nazis in Prewar Germany," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(4), pages 1885-1939.
    45. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    46. Ran Abramitzky & Adeline Delavande & Luis Vasconcelos, 2011. "Marrying Up: The Role of Sex Ratio in Assortative Matching," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 124-157, July.
    47. Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln & Matthias Schundeln, 2005. "Precautionary Savings and Self-Selection - Evidence from the German Reunification "Experiment"," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2069, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    48. Daniel K. Fetter & Lee M. Lockwood, 2018. "Government Old-Age Support and Labor Supply: Evidence from the Old Age Assistance Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(8), pages 2174-2211, August.
    49. Douglas Almond & Hilary W. Hoynes & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2011. "Inside the War on Poverty: The Impact of Food Stamps on Birth Outcomes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 387-403, May.
    50. Torsten Santavirta, 2012. "How Large Are the Effects from Temporary Changes in Family Environment: Evidence from a Child-Evacuation Program during World War II," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 28-42, July.
    51. Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein, 2007. "From Farmers to Merchants, Conversions and Diaspora: Human Capital and Jewish History," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(5), pages 885-926, September.
    52. Vasiliki Fouka & Soumyajit Mazumder & Marco Tabellini, 2019. "From Immigrants to Americans: Race and Assimilation during the Great Migration," Development Working Papers 445, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano.
    53. Matthew Jaremski, 2020. "Today’s economic history and tomorrow’s scholars," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 14(1), pages 169-180, January.
    54. Arindrajit Dube & Ethan Kaplan & Suresh Naidu, 2011. "Coups, Corporations, and Classified Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1375-1409.
    55. W. Walker Hanlon, 2015. "Necessity Is the Mother of Invention: Input Supplies and Directed Technical Change," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83, pages 67-100, January.
    56. Maja Adena & Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Veronica Santarosa & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2015. "Radio and the Rise of The Nazis in Prewar Germany," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(4), pages 1885-1939.
    57. Michela Giorcelli, 2019. "The Long-Term Effects of Management and Technology Transfers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(1), pages 121-152, January.
    58. Angrist, Joshua D, 1990. "Lifetime Earnings and the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery: Evidence from Social Security Administrative Records: Errata," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1284-1286, December.
    59. Jared Rubin, 2014. "Printing and Protestants: An Empirical Test of the Role of Printing in the Reformation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 96(2), pages 270-286, May.
    60. Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 159-217, January.
    61. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2007. "Did Highways Cause Suburbanization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 775-805.
    62. Sara Lowes & Nathan Nunn & James A. Robinson & Jonathan L. Weigel, 2017. "The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence From the Kuba Kingdom," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 85, pages 1065-1091, July.
    63. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972.
    64. Mazumder, Soumyajit, 2019. "From Immigrants to Americans: Race and Assimilation during the Great Migration," OSF Preprints eka5y, Center for Open Science.
    65. Suresh Naidu & Noam Yuchtman, 2013. "Coercive Contract Enforcement: Law and the Labor Market in Nineteenth Century Industrial Britain," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(1), pages 107-144, February.
    66. Paul Gertler, 2004. "Do Conditional Cash Transfers Improve Child Health? Evidence from PROGRESA's Control Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 336-341, May.
    67. Martha J. Bailey, 2006. "More Power to the Pill: The Impact of Contraceptive Freedom on Women's Life Cycle Labor Supply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(1), pages 289-320.
    68. Christian Dippel, 2014. "Forced Coexistence and Economic Development: Evidence From Native American Reservations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 2131-2165, November.
    69. Sara Lowes & Eduardo Montero, 2020. "Concessions, Violence, and Indirect Rule: Evidence from the Congo Free State," NBER Working Papers 27893, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Boehnke, Jörn & Gay, Victor, 2020. "The Missing Men: World War I and Female Labor Force Participation," TSE Working Papers 20-1064, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Paolo Pinotti, 0. "The Credibility Revolution in the Empirical Analysis of Crime," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 0, pages 1-14.
    3. Morgan Kelly, 2020. "Understanding Persistence," Working Papers 202023, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    4. Paolo Pinotti, 2020. "The Credibility Revolution in the Empirical Analysis of Crime," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 6(2), pages 207-220, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B00 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - General - - - History of Economic Thought, Methodology, and Heterodox Approaches
    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General
    • N01 - Economic History - - General - - - Development of the Discipline: Historiographical; Sources and Methods
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26754. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.