NBER Publications by Davide Cantoni

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Working Papers and Chapters

August 2014A Tear in the Iron Curtain: The Impact of Western Television on Consumption Behavior
with Leonardo Bursztyn: w20403
This paper examines the impact of exposure to foreign media on the economic behavior of agents in a totalitarian regime. We study private consumption choices focusing on former East Germany, where differential access to Western television was determined by geographic features. Using data collected after the transition to a market economy, we find no evidence of a significant impact of previous exposure to Western television on aggregate consumption levels. However, exposure to Western broadcasts affects the composition of consumption, biasing choices in favor of categories of goods with high intensity of pre-reunification advertisement. The effects vanish by 1998.

Published: Leonardo Bursztyn & Davide Cantoni, 2016. "A Tear in the Iron Curtain: The Impact of Western Television on Consumption Behavior," Review of Economics and Statistics, vol 98(1), pages 25-41.

May 2014Curriculum and Ideology
with Yuyu Chen, David Y. Yang, Noam Yuchtman, Y. Jane Zhang: w20112
We study the causal effect of school curricula on students' stated beliefs and attitudes. We exploit a major textbook reform in China that was rolled out between 2004 and 2010 with the explicit intention of shaping youths' ideology. To measure its effect, we present evidence from a novel survey we conducted among 2000 students at Peking University. The sharp, staggered introduction of the new curriculum across provinces allows us to identify the effects of the new educational content in a generalized difference in differences framework. We examine government documents articulating desired consequences of the reform, and identify changes in textbook content and college entrance exams that reflect the government's aims. These changes were often effective: study under the new curriculum is ro...
April 2012Medieval Universities, Legal Institutions, and the Commercial Revolution
with Noam Yuchtman: w17979
We present new data documenting medieval Europe's "Commercial Revolution'' using information on the establishment of markets in Germany. We use these data to test whether medieval universities played a causal role in expanding economic activity, examining the foundation of Germany's first universities after 1386 following the Papal Schism. We find that the trend rate of market establishment breaks upward in 1386 and that this break is greatest where the distance to a university shrank most. There is no differential pre-1386 trend associated with the reduction in distance to a university, and there is no break in trend in 1386 where university proximity did not change. These results are not affected by excluding cities close to universities or cities belonging to territories that included u...

Published: “Medieval Universities, Legal Institutions, and the Commercial Revolution,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129(2), 823–887. (joint with Davide Cantoni) citation courtesy of

April 2009The Consequences of Radical Reform: The French Revolution
with Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, James A. Robinson: w14831
The French Revolution of 1789 had a momentous impact on neighboring countries. The French Revolutionary armies during the 1790s and later under Napoleon invaded and controlled large parts of Europe. Together with invasion came various radical institutional changes. French invasion removed the legal and economic barriers that had protected the nobility, clergy, guilds, and urban oligarchies and established the principle of equality before the law. The evidence suggests that areas that were occupied by the French and that underwent radical institutional reform experienced more rapid urbanization and economic growth, especially after 1850. There is no evidence of a negative effect of French invasion. Our interpretation is that the Revolution destroyed (the institutional underpinnings of) the ...

Published: Daron Acemoglu & Davide Cantoni & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2011. "The Consequences of Radical Reform: The French Revolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3286-3307, December. citation courtesy of

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