NBER Working Papers by Walker Hanlon

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Working Papers

December 2016Coal Smoke and the Costs of the Industrial Revolution
While the Industrial Revolution brought economic growth, there is a long debate in economics over the costs of the pollution externalities that accompanied early industrialization. To help settle this debate, this paper introduces a new theoretically-grounded strategy for estimating the impact of industrial pollution on local economic development and applies this approach to data from British cities for 1851-1911. I show that local industrial coal use substantially reduced long-run city employment growth over this period. Moreover, a counterfactual analysis suggests that plausible improvements in coal use efficiency would have led to substantially higher urbanization rates in Britain by 1911.
October 2015Pollution and Mortality in the 19th Century
Mortality was extremely high in the industrial cities of the 19th century, but little is known about the role played by pollution in generating this pattern, due largely to a lack of direct pollution measures. I overcome this problem by combining data on the local composition of industries in Britain with information on the intensity with which industries used polluting inputs. Using this new measure, I show that pollution had a strong impact on mortality as far back as the 1850s. Industrial pollution explains 30-40% of the relationship between mortality and population density in 1851-60, and nearly 60% of this relationship in 1900. Growing industrial coal use from 1851-1900 reduced life expectancy by at least 0.57 years. A back-of-the envelope estimate suggests that the value of this loss...
December 2014Agglomeration: A Dynamic Approach
with Antonio Miscio: w20728
This paper studies the sources of agglomeration economies in cities. We begin by introducing a simple dynamic spatial equilibrium model that incorporates spillovers within and across industries, as well as city-size effects. The model generates a dynamic panel-data estimation equation. We implement the approach using detailed new data describing the industry composition of 31 English cities from 1851-1911. We find that industries grow faster in cities where they have more local suppliers or other occupationally-similar industries. Industries do not grow more rapidly in locations in which they are already large, though there can be exceptions. Thus, dynamic agglomeration appears to be driven by cross-industry effects. Once we control for these cross-industry agglomeration effects, we find a...
September 2014Temporary Shocks and Persistent Effects in the Urban System: Evidence from British Cities after the U.S. Civil War
Urban economies are often heavily reliant on a small number of dominant industries, leaving them vulnerable to negative industry-specific shocks. This paper analyzes the long-run impacts of one such event: the large, temporary, and industry-specific shock to the British cotton textile industry caused by the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), which dramatically reduced supplies of raw cotton. Because the British cotton textile industry was heavily concentrated in towns in Northwest England, I compare patterns in these cotton towns to other English cities. I find that the shock had a persistent negative effect on the level of city population lasting at least 35 years with no sign of diminishing. Decomposing the effect by industry, I show that the shock to cotton textiles was transmitted to other lo...

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