Working Paper
Heldring, Leander, James A Robinson, and Sebastian Vollmer. Working Paper. “Monks, Gents and Industrialists: The Long-Run Impact of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries”.Abstract
We examine the long-run economic impact of the Dissolution of the English monasteries in 1535, which is plausibly linked to the commercialization of agriculture and the location of the Industrial Revolution. Using monastic income at the parish level as our explanatory variable, we show that parishes which the Dissolution impacted more had more textile mills and employed a greater share of population outside agriculture, had more gentry and agricultural patent holders, and were more likely to be enclosed. Our results extend Tawney’s famous ‘rise of the gentry’ thesis by linking social change to the Industrial Revolution.
Bentzen, Jeanet, Jacob Gerner Hariri, and James A Robinson. Working Paper. “The Indigenous Roots of Representative Democracy”.Abstract
We document that rules for leadership succession in ethnic societies that antedate the modern state predict contemporary political regimes; leadership selection by election in indigenous societies is associated with contemporary representative democracy. The basic association, however, is conditioned on the relative strength of the indigenous groups within a country; stronger groups seem to have been able to shape national regime trajectories, weaker groups do not. This finding extends and qualifies a substantive qualitative literature, which has found in local democratic institutions of medieval Europe a positive impulse towards the development of representative democracy. It shows that contemporary regimes are shaped not only by colonial history and European influence; indigenous history also matters. For practitioners, our findings suggest that external reformers' capacity for regime-building should not be exaggerated.
Robinson, James A, Ragnar Torvik, and Thierry Verdier. Working Paper. “The Political Economy of Public Income Volatility”.Abstract
We develop a model of the political consequences of public income volatility. As is standard, political incentives create inefficient policies, but we show that making income uncertain creates specific new effects. Future volatility reduces the benefit of being in power, making policy more efficient. Yet at the same time it also reduces the re-election probability of an incumbent and since some of the policy inefficiencies are concentrated in the future, this makes inefficient policy less costly. We show how this model can help think about the connection between volatility and economic growth and in the case where volatility comes from volatile natural resource prices, a characteristic of many developing countries, we show that volatility in itself is a source of inefficient resource extraction.
In Preparation
Reed, Tristan, and James A Robinson. In Preparation. History of the Chiefdoms of Sierra Leone . Cambridge, 143. history.pdf
Lowes, Sara, Nathan Nunn, James A Robinson, and Jonathan Weigel. 2015. “Understanding Ethnic Identity in Africa: Evidence from the Implicit Association Tests,” American Economic Review, 105 (5): 340-345.
Acemoglu, Daron, Camilo García-Jimeno, and James A Robinson. 2015. “ The Role of State Capacity in Economic Development,” The Political Economist, XI (1): 7-9. political_economist_published_spring_2015.pdf
Chaves, Isaías N, Leopoldo Fergusson, and James A Robinson. 2015. “He Who Counts Wins: Economic Elites, Political Elites and Electoral Fraud,” Economics and Politics, 27 (1): 124-159.
Acemoglu, Daron, and James A Robinson. 2015. “The Rise and Decline of General Laws of Capitalism,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 29 (1): 3-28. laws_of_capitalism.pdf online_appendix.pdf
2014. Africa's Development in Historical Perspective. Edited by Emmanuel Akyeampong, Robert H Bates, Nathan Nunn, and James A Robinson. New York: Cambridge University Press. Publisher's Version africa_book_cover.jpg
Chaves, Isaías N, Stanley L Engerman, and James A Robinson. 2014. “Reinventing the Wheel: The Economic Benefits of Wheeled Transportation in Early Colonial British West Africa.” Africa's Development in Historical Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press. reinventing_the_wheel.pdf
PIncus, Steve CA, and James A Robinson. 2014. “What Really Happened During the Glorious Revolution?.” Institutions, Property Rights, and Economic Growth: The Legacy of Douglass North. New York: Cambridge University Press. glorious_revolution_published.pdf
Africa's Development in Historical Perspective
Bates, Robert H, Nathan Nunn, and James A Robinson. 2014.

Africa's Development in Historical Perspective

. Edited by Emmanuel Akyeampong. 1st ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 526.
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 (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.
Acemoglu, Daron, Suresh Naidu, Pascual Restrepo, and James A Robinson. 2014. “

Democracy Does Cause Growth

We provide evidence that democracy has a significant and robust positive effect on GDP. Our empirical strategy relies on a dichotomous measure of democracy coded from several sources to reduce measurement error and controls for country fixed effects and the rich dynamics of GDP, which otherwise confound the effect of democracy on economic growth. Our baseline results use a linear model for GDP dynamics estimated using either a standard within estimator or various different Generalized Method of Moments estimators, and show that democratizations increase GDP per capita by about 20% in the long run. These results are confirmed when we use a semiparametric propensity score matching estimator to control for GDP dynamics. We also obtain similar results using regional waves of democratizations and reversals to instrument for country democracy. Our results suggest that democracy increases future GDP by encouraging investment, increasing schooling, inducing economic reforms, improving public good provision, and reducing social unrest. We find little support for the view that democracy is a constraint on economic growth for less developed economies.
Robinson, James, Ragnar Torvik, and Thierry Verdier. 2014. “Political foundations of the resource curse: A simplification and a comment,” Journal of Development Economics, 106 (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.
Acemoglu, Daron, Camilo García-Jimeno, and James A Robinson. 2014. “State Capacity and Economic Development: A Network Approach”.Abstract
We study the direct and spillover effects of local state capacity using the network of Colombian municipalities. We model the determination of local and national state capacity as a network game in which each municipality, anticipating the choices and spillovers created by other municipalities and the decisions of the national government, invests in local state capacity and the national government chooses the presence of the national state across municipalities to maximize its own payoff. We then estimate the parameters of this model using reduced-form instrumental variables techniques and structurally (using GMM, simulated GMM or maximum likelihood). To do so we exploit both the structure of the network of municipalities, which determines which municipalities create spillovers on others, and the historical roots of local state capacity as the source of exogenous variation. These historical instruments are related to the presence of colonial royal roads and local presence of the colonial state in the 18th century, factors which we argue are unrelated to current provision of public goods and prosperity except through their impact on own and neighbors' local state capacity. Our estimates of the effects of state presence on prosperity are large and also indicate that state capacity decisions are strategic complements across municipalities. As a result, we find that bringing all municipalities below median to median state capacity, without taking into account equilibrium responses of other municipalities, would increase the median fraction of the population above poverty from 57% to 60%. Approximately 57% of this is due to direct effects and 43% to spillovers. However, if we take the equilibrium response of other municipalities into account, the median would instead increase to 68%, a sizable change driven by equilibrium network effects.
Robinson, James A, and Ragnar Torvik. 2013. “Institutional Comparative Statics.” Advances in Economics and Econometrics: Tenth World Congress, Volume II, Applied Economics. New York: Cambridge University Press. institutional_comparative_statics.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, Suresh Naidu, Pascual Restrepo, and James Robinson. 2013. “Democracy, Public Policy and Inequality,” APSA-Comparative Democratization, 11 (3): 2-20. apsa-cdoctober-2013.pdf
Acemoglu, Daron, Suresh Naidu, Pascual Restrepo, and James A Robinson. 2013. “Democracy, Redistribution and Inequality”.Abstract
In this paper we revisit the relationship between democracy, redistribution and inequality. We first explain the theoretical reasons why democracy is expected to increase redistribution and reduce inequality, and why this expectation may fail to be realized when democracy is captured by the richer segments of the population; when it caters to the preferences of the middle class; or when it opens up disequalizing opportunities to segments of the population previously excluded from such activities, thus exacerbating inequality among a large part of the population. We then survey the existing empirical literature, which is both voluminous and full of contradictory results. We provide new and systematic reduced-form evidence on the dynamic impact of democracy on various outcomes. Our findings indicate that there is a significant and robust effect of democracy on tax revenues as a fraction of GDP, but no robust impact on inequality. We also find that democracy is associated with an increase in secondary schooling and a more rapid structural transformation. Finally, we provide some evidence suggesting that inequality tends to increase after democrati- zation when the economy has already undergone significant structural transformation, when land inequality is high, and when the gap between the middle class and the poor is small. All of these are broadly consistent with a view that is different from the traditional median voter model of democratic redistribution: democracy does not lead to a uniform decline in post-tax inequality, but can result in changes in fiscal redistribution and economic structure that have ambiguous effects on inequality.