Publications

2014
Acemoglu, Daron, Francisco Gallego, and James A Robinson. 2014.

Institutions, Human Capital and Development

. Annual Reviews of Economics 6: 875-912. annurev-economics-080213-041119.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, Tristan Reed, and James A Robinson. 2014.

Chiefs: Economic Development and Elite Control of Civil Society in Sierra Leone

. Journal of Political Economy 122, no. 2: 319-368.Abstract
We use the colonial organization of chieftaincy in Sierra Leone to study the effect of constraints on chiefs' power on economic outcomes, citizens' attitudes and social capital. A chief must come from one of the ruling families originally recognized by British colonial authorities. Chiefs face fewer constraints and less political competition in chiefdoms with fewer ruling families. We show that places with fewer ruling families have significantly worse development outcomes today---in particular, lower rates of educational attainment, child health, non-agricultural employment and asset ownership. We present evidence that variation in the security of property rights in land is a significant mechanism. Paradoxically we also show that in chieftaincies with fewer ruling families the institutions of chiefs' authority are more highly respected among villagers, and measured social capital is higher. We argue that these results reflect the capture of civil society organizations by chiefs.
chiefs_published.pdf
Robinson, James, Ragnar Torvik, and Thierry Verdier. 2014. Political foundations of the resource curse: A simplification and a comment. Journal of Development Economics 106, no. 1: 194-198.Abstract
In this note we show how a considerably simpler model than the one in our original JDE 2006 paper generates all the same results. We also acknowledge an error in the specification of a utility function in our previous paper.
resource_curse_simplified.pdf
2013
Acemoglu, Daron, Suresh Naidu, Pascual Restrepo, and James Robinson. 2013. Democracy, Public Policy and Inequality. APSA-Comparative Democratization 11, no. 3: 2-20. apsa-cdoctober-2013.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, James A Robinson, and Ragnar Torvik. 2013. Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?. Review of Economic Studies 80, no. 3: 845-875. checks_and_balances_published.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, and James A Robinson. 2013. Economics versus Politics: Pitfalls of Policy Advice. Journal of Economic Perspectives 27, no. 2: 173-192. economics_versus_politics_published.pdf
Robinson, James A, and Thierry Verdier. 2013. The Political Economy of Clientelism. Scandinavian Journal of Economics 115, no. 2: 260-291. clientelism.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, James A Robinson, and Rafael J Santos. 2013. The Monopoly of Violence: Evidence from Colombia. Journal of the European Economic Association 11, no. S1: 5-44. monopoly_of_violence.pdf
Osafo-Kwaako, Philip, and James A Robinson. 2013. Political Centralization in Pre-Colonial Africa. Journal of Comparative Economics 41, no. 1: 534-564. political_centralization_in_africa.pdf
Robinson, James A. 2013. Colombia: Another 100 Years of Solitude? (plus the Spanish translation). Current History 112, no. 751: 43-48. robinson-current_history.pdf colombia_otros_100_anos_de_soledad.pdf
2012
Baland, Jean-Marie, and James A Robinson. 2012. The Political Value of Land: Political Reform and Land Prices in Chile. American Journal of Political Science 56, no. 3: 601-619. political_value_of_land.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, Simon Johnson, and James A Robinson. 2012. The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation: Reply. American Economic Review 102, no. 6: 3077-3110. colonial_origins_reply.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, Camilo García-Jimeno, and James A Robinson. 2012. Finding El Dorado: Slavery and Long-Run Development in Colombia. Journal of Comparative Economics 40, no. 4: 534-564. el_dorado_published.pdf
2011
García-Jimeno, Camilo, and James A Robinson. 2011. The Myth of the Frontier. In Understanding Long-Run Economic Growth. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. understanding_long-run_economic_growth_-_ch_2.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, Davide Cantoni, Simon Johnson, and James A Robinson. 2011. The Consequences of Radical Refrom: The French Revolution. American Economic Review 101, no. 7: 3286-3307. french_revolution.pdf
Robinson, James A. 2011. When is Democracy an Equilibrium? Theory and Evidence from Colombia's La Violencia. Journal of Conflict Resolution 55, no. 3: 366-396. violencia_published.pdf
Robinson, James A. 2011. SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT: A LEGACY OF THE HOLOCAUST IN RUSSIA. Quarterly Journal of Economic 126: 895–946. holocaust_published.pdf
2010
Besley, Timothy, and James A Robinson. 2010. Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Civilian Control over the Military. Journal of the European Economic Association 8 , no. 2-3: 655–663.Abstract
The question of who guards the guards is intimately connected with broader questions of state capacity and the establishment of a monopoly of violence in society, something which is often viewed as the defining feature of the modern state. But to establish such a monopoly, civilian rulers need not only to build an effective military, but also to control it. In this paper we study how governments may solve this problem when they recognize that their decisions to build a strong army may have ramifications for subsequent coups.
jr_militarypolitics.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, and James A Robinson. 2010. Why is Africa Poor?. Economic History of Developing Regions 25, no. 1 June 2010: 21-50 .Abstract
In this paper we take for granted that the poverty of Sub-Saharan Africa is to a large part explained by its political and economic institutions. As citizens Africans do not have the incentives to save and invest, as politicians they do not have the incentive to provide public goods. We focus on the issue of how Africa developed such institutions. Historically, no society had the types of institutions required for modern economic growth, though a few had elements of them for quite long periods. Growth arose when institutional transitions took place. We argue that the historical dynamics of institutions in Africa have been different. Processes of state formation seem to have been delayed relative to Eurasia, and state institutions appear to have been intensely absolutist and patrimonial. These initial institutions interacted in a perverse way with a series of shocks that hit Africa, in particular the slave trade in the early modern period, and colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Africa countries emerged at independence with a complex path dependent set of institutions that were probably even worse than those which they had at the time of colonization. It was these that precipitated authoritarianism, sustained economic decline and reinforced the poverty we see in Africa today.
jr_africanpoverty.pdf
Robinson, James A, and Sripad Motiram. 2010. Interlinking and Collusion. Review of Development Economics 14, no. 2: 282–301.Abstract
In this paper, we suggest a new rationale for the existence of interlinked contracts in the agrarian economies of developing countries. Using the framework of an infinitely repeated game with discounting, we show that interlinked contracts can help the dominant parties to collude, in cases where collusion is not possible with noninterlinked contracts. This occurs because either interlinkage pools incentive constraints across markets, or it affects the incentives of agents to accept deviating contracts. We illustrate these mechanisms by considering the case of interlinkage between markets for credit and share tenancy. The model that is used to formalize the second mechanism is characterized by frictions in the tenancy market, which we model using the standard framework of search and matching.
ReviewPublished.pdf