Famine, Finance, and Adjustment to Environmental Shock: Microcredit and the Great Famine in Ireland
The Great Famine of Ireland from 1845-51 ranks as one of the most lethal of all time, claiming approximately one eighth of the country’s population. Utilizing Famine Relief Commission reports to develop a micro-level dataset of blight severity, I find that in the short run, districts more severely infected by blight experienced larger population declines and accumulations of buffer livestock. In the medium and long runs, however, worse affected districts experienced greater substitutions toward other tillage crops and grazing livestock. Using annual reports of the Irish Loan Funds, I further find that access to microfinance credit was an important factor in short- and long-run adjustment to blight. Districts with at least one microfinance fund during the Famine experienced substantially smaller population declines and larger increases in buffer livestock during and immediately after the Famine, and greater medium- and long-run substitutions toward other crops and grazing livestock, than districts without a fund.
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