Department of Economics
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Cambridge MA 02142
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|January 2018||Social Structure and Conflict: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa|
with Nathan Nunn, James A. Robinson: w24209
We test the long-standing hypothesis that ethnic groups that are organized around `segmentary lineages' are more prone to conflict and civil war. Ethnographic accounts suggest that in segmentary lineage societies, which are characterized by strong allegiances to distant relatives, individuals are obligated to come to the defense of fellow lineage members when they become involved in conflicts. As a consequence, small disagreements often escalate to larger-scale conflicts involving many individuals. We test for this link between segmentary lineage and conflict across 145 African ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa. Using a number of estimation strategies, including an RD design at ethnic boundaries, we find that segmentary lineage societies experience more conflicts and ones that are longer...
|February 2017||Keeping It in the Family: Lineage Organization and the Scope of Trust in Sub-Saharan Africa|
with Nathan Nunn, James A. Robinson: w23196
We present evidence that the traditional structure of society is an important determinant of the scope of trust today. Within Africa, individuals belonging to ethnic groups that organized society using segmentary lineages exhibit a more limited scope of trust, measured by the gap between trust in relatives and trust in non-relatives. This trust gap arises because of lower levels of trust in non-relatives and not higher levels of trust in relatives. A causal interpretation of these correlations is supported by the fact that the effects are primarily found in rural areas where these forms of organization are still prevalent.
Published: Jacob Moscona & Nathan Nunn & James A. Robinson, 2017. "Keeping It in the Family: Lineage Organization and the Scope of Trust in Sub-Saharan Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 565-571, May. citation courtesy of
|January 2016||State Capacity and American Technology: Evidence from the 19th Century|
with Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson: w21932
Robert Gordon's The Rise and Fall of American Economic Growth provides a compelling interpretation of how technical change and innovation has radically changed the living standards of the citizens of the US in the past 150 years. Lying behind these changes are the institutions which have allowed the country to harness its human potential. In this paper we conduct an empirical investigation of the impact of one key set of institutions, the capacity of the US state as proxied by the presence of post offices in a county, on innovation. We show that between 1804 and 1899, the time when the US became the world technological leader, there is a strong association between the presence and number of post offices in a county and patenting activity, and it appears that it is the opening of postal off...