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Labor Economics II

Class at Faculty of Social Sciences |


Part A: Lectures and paper discussions/referee reports  

The course starts with a brief overview of the long-run development of economic figures and a non-technical repetition of the concepts of causal inference. Thereafter, we chronologically discuss basic figures and facts on long-run development. The course will mix classical overview lectures (so-called “Notes”) by the instructor with discussions of seminal research papers.

For the paper discussions, we will split the class into two groups, and every student prepares one short presentation each week about one paper (starting in week #3 to week #10). We then select randomly one student to introduce the paper with his/her short presentation. This short presentation will consist of 5–6 slides only (overview, contribution to the literature, the setting, the empirical identification strategy, the main results, and maybe some robustness notes). In addition to the short presentations, each paper will be assigned to a student to write and present a “referee report”. The aim of the referee report is to be critical: Give a short overview of the paper; think about an alternative explanation/story, and criticize the empirical identification strategy of the paper (and try to suggest an alternative one). Students that prepare a referee report do not have to prepare a short presentation in that week. Further instructions will be provided in the first week of class.

The following time schedule applies:

Week #1 (Feb 15): Course overview and introduction to causal inference  

Overview of the course and requirements

Overview and (pre-)assignment of discussion papers

Stylized facts on long-run development

Concepts of causal inference in quantitative economic history (Part I) – DiD and IV  

Week #2 (Feb 22): Causal inference (cont.) and referee report  

Concepts of causal inference in QEH (Part II) – (fuzzy and spatial) RDD, SCM

Final assignment of discussion papers (in groups) and referee report (individual)

Notes on how to write a referee report (own example)

Example for referee reports (Paper & four reports):

(2.1a)         Ochsner, C. (2017+): “Dismantled once, diverged forever? A quasi-natural experiment of Red Army’s misdeeds in post-WWII Europe”, ifo Working Paper No. 240 (submitted version).(2.1b)        4 JEEA Referee reports on: Ochsner, C. (2017+): “Dismantled once, diverged forever? A quasi-natural experiment of Red Army’s misdeeds in post-WWII Europe”, ifo Working Paper No. 240 (submitted version).

Week #3 (March 01): Early Development  

Notes on the “pre-industrial development”: The horsemen of riches

Emerging rich: The European marriage pattern

Early technology adaption and economic growth

The effects of the Protestant Revolution on development

Students’ presentations and reports on “ancient development”

Discussion papers on “ancient development”:

(3.1)          Matranga, A. (2019): “The Ant and the Grasshopper: Seasonality and the Invention of Agriculture”, Working Paper Chapman University.

(3.2)          Dalgaard, C-J., Kaarsen, N., Olsson, O., and P. Selaya (2020): “Roman Roads to Prosperity: Persistence and Non-Persistence of Public Goods Provision”, Working Paper, University of Copenhagen.  

Week #4 (March 08): Industrial Revolution  

Notes on the “Industrial Revolution”: Technology vs. factor prices

The spread of the IR to Europe and to the rest of World

Students’ presentations and reports on “pre-industrial development”  

Discussion papers on “pre-industrial development”:

(4.1)     Becker, S. O., Ferrara, A., Melander, E., and L. Pascali (2020): “Wars, Taxation and Representation: Evidence from Five Centuries of German History,” Working Paper University of Warwick, Coventry.

 (4.2)    Dittmar, J. E. (2011): “Information Technology and Economic Change: The Impact of the Printing Press”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics 126(3), 1133–1172.

Week #5 (March 15): Cultural Economics

Notes on “Cultural Economics”

The origin of cultural differences. Nature, economics, and institutions

Students’ presentations and reports on the “Industrial Revolution”  

Discussion papers on the “Industrial Revolution”:

(5.1)     Heblich, S., and A. Trew (2019): “Banking and Industrialization”, Journal of the European Economic Association 17(6), 1753–1796.

(5.2)     Hanlon, W. (2015): “Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Input Supplies and Directed Technical Change”, Econometrica 83(1), 67–100.

(5.2)     Juhász, R. (2018): “Temporary Protection and Technology Adoption: Evidence from the Napoleonic Blockade”, American Economic Review 108(11), 3339–3376.  

Week #6 (March 22): Stata Session I and Papers on Cultural Economics  

Stata Session I: Assignment #1 and #2 (different concepts and robust RDD)

Students’ presentations and reports on “Cultural Economics”  

Discussion papers on cultural economics:

(6.1)     Ochsner, C., and F. Roesel (2019): “Mobilizing history“, CESifo Working Paper No. 6586 (revised version), CESifo Munich.

(6.2)     Drelichman, M., Vidal-Robert, J., and H.-J. Voth (2021): “The Long Run Effects of Religious Persecution: Evidence from the Spanish Inquisition,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 118 (33).

(6.3)    Rustagi, D. (2021): “Historical Self-Governance and Norms of Cooperation,” Working Paper, University of Nottingham.

Week #7 (March 29): The Great Depression  

Notes on the “Great Depression”

Stylized facts on the US and the transmission of the great depression

Macro and micro evidence on the fast recovery in the USA

Some hints to the GD in Europe: Golden fetters

Students’ presentations and reports on the “Great Depression”

Discussion papers on the “Great Depression”:

(7.1)     Lee, J., and F. Mezzanotti (2017): “Bank Distress and Manufacturing: Evidence from the Great Depression”, Working Paper, Northwestern University.

(7.2)     Doerr, S., Gissler, S., Peydró, J.L., and H.-J. Voth (2020): “From Finance to Fascism”, Working Paper, University of Zurich.

Week #8 (April 5): Totalitarian regimes  

Notes on the “economics of totalitarian regimes”: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union

Success and failure of the economics of totalitarian regimes

Students’ presentations and reports on the “political economy of totalitarian regimes”

Discussion papers on the (political) economy of totalitarian regimes:

(8.1)     Stegmann, A. (2019): “When East Meets West: Interpersonal Contact and the Demand for Democracy,” Working Paper briq Institute, Bonn.

(8.2)     Lichter, A., Löffler, M., and S. Siegloch (2021): “The Long-Term Costs of Government Surveillance: Insights from Stasi Spying in East Germany,” Journal of the European Economic Association 19(2), pp. 741–789.

Week #9 (April 12): Growth after World War II  

Notes on the “economic miracle” after WWII

Economic growth in the East and West

The relative fall back of the east after the mid-1970s

Students’ presentations and reports on the “growth after WWII”

Discussion papers on “European economic growth after WWII”:

(9.1)     Glitz, A., and E. Meyersson (2020), “Industrial espionage and productivity,” American Economic Review 110(4), 1055–1103.

(9.2)     Bianchi, N., and M. Giorcelli (2018): “Reconstruction aid, public infrastructure, and economic development: The case of the Marshall Plan in Italy,” Working Paper, UCLA.

Week #10 (April 19): Stata Session II and Papers on Ethnic Cleansing  

Stata Session II: Assignment #3 and #4 (Clustering and SCM)

Students’ presentations and reports on “Ethnic cleansing”

Discussion papers on “ethnic cleansing”:

(10.1)   Testa, P. A. (2021), “The Economic Legacy of Expulsion: Lessons from Postwar Czechoslovakia”, The Economic Journal 131, 2233–2271.

(10.2)   Becker, S. O., Grosfeld, I., Grosjean, P., Voigtländer, N., and E. Zhuravskaya (2020): “Forced Migration and Human Capital: Evidence from post-WWII Population Transfers”, American Econom


Economic conditions and our economic lives are constantly changing. During the last decades, the rise of China has fostered deindustrialization in developed countries; the financial crisis in 2008 is still prolonging and visible in unconventional monetary policy measures; and technological change fosters the skill-premium and somewhat translates into radical political movements. How can we classify these current events and how unique are these changes in a historical context?

The lecture “Quantitative Economic History” deals with the causes and determinants of the long-run evolution of socio-economic variables and brings students to the research frontier in this field. We discuss both stylized facts and empirical identification strategies for causal inference. We look at economic shocks and their respective policy measures, zoom into the specific situations in Central and Eastern Europe and ask whether economic history may help to achieve appropriate policy measures for challenges in the present day. Indeed, technological change, monetary and economic crises, waves of globalization and fertility transitions repeatedly shaped the world during the last 300 years.

The course follows two approaches to learn more about economics in general and economic history in particular. On the one hand, a long-term perspective on the evolution of socio-economic figures can help to understand changes and obstacles today. The lecture thus combines stylized facts with both recent contributions in the literature and appropriate econometric tools. On the other hand, history provides so-called quasi-experimental shocks that can be used for causal inference. Students will discuss recent research papers and will critically assess the respective empirical identification strategies. The lecture bases on a broader understanding of economics. Despite classical economic variables like GDP, inflation or population growth, we will also discuss so-called soft economic variables such as norms, culture, trust and social capital. These soft economic variables are important drivers of economic growth, cooperation and economic success.