Social Studies: The Pros and Cons of Partisanship, the Price of Persecution

Competitive advantages

Analyzing data from 1880 onwards, political scientists found that states with a more equal partisan balance in their legislatures spent more on education, health, and transportation per capita than states with a strong Democratic or Republican majority, even taking into account per capita income and demographics. The researchers hypothesize that in competitive political environments, elected officials were more likely to approve social spending in order to gain votes. They found that an increase in education and health (but not transport) spending per capita resulted in lower infant mortality, longer life expectancy, better educational outcomes and, in the run-up to WWII. world, higher per capita income.

Gamm, G. & Kousser, T., “Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Prosperity: Party Competition and Policy Outcomes in 50 States”, American Political Science Review (forthcoming).

Loot from the PPP

The Paycheck Protection Program, which provided federal loans designed to help small businesses survive the pandemic, was inundated with demands and ran out of first-round cash within weeks in April 2020. According to analysis of finance professors at Boston College and the University of South Carolina, Democratic-leaning states and congressional districts have obtained less than their fair share of loans, controlling for application rates, unemployment rates and cases of COVID-19. The researchers found no significant bias in the second round, after the program came under closer scrutiny and was full of money. However, the biased first round resulted in an increase in small business activity and employment in the Republican areas that benefited from it.

Duchin, R. & Hackney, J., “Buy the Vote? The Economics of Election Politics and Small Business Lending ”, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis (forthcoming).

Nobody expected it

Do the violence and totalitarianism that accompany religious persecution have long-term effects? Using records from thousands of trials during the three centuries of the Spanish Inquisition, economists found that municipalities that had more inquisitorial activity now have lower GDP per capita, lower levels of education, lower social trust and higher attendance at religious services, even controlling various geographic areas. and current socio-economic characteristics. The imbalance does not appear to be explained by pre-existing differences in development or religion, as the Inquisition appears to have targeted relatively wealthy, non-religious areas.

Drelichman, M. et al., “The Long-Term Effects of Religious Persecution: Evidence from the Spanish Inquisition,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (August 2021).

Size mattered in the north

A group of economists suggests that body size was a key factor in explaining a puzzling historical reversal: While countries at higher latitudes tend to be more developed nowadays, the reverse was true in Europe. pre-industrial era. Historical statistics show that people in higher latitudes were larger – due to cold adaptation, perhaps – and could not feed large numbers of offspring, resulting in smaller populations and less developed economies. However, as technology advanced and spread, people in high latitudes were better placed to educate their children to master this technology; with fewer children, they had more resources to devote to each child. More education, lower fertility and more development were therefore mutually reinforcing. This size-related change during industrialization can be seen in all countries, and even within countries, including England and Italy.

Dalgaard, C.-J. et al., “Physiological Constraints and Transition to Growth: Implications for Comparative Development”, Journal of Economic Growth (September 2021).

Sara R. Cicero