Emigration during the French Revolution: Consequences in the Short and Longue Durée
During the French Revolution, more than 100,000 individuals, predominantly supporters of the Old Regime, fled France. As a result, some areas experienced a significant change in the composition of the local elites whereas in others the pre-revolutionary social structure remained virtually intact. In this study, we trace the consequences of the émigrés' flight on economic performance at the local level. We instrument emigration intensity with local temperature shocks during an inflection point of the Revolution, the summer of 1792, marked by the abolition of the constitutional monarchy and bouts of local violence. Our findings suggest that émigrés have a non monotonic effect on comparative development. During the 19th century, there is a significant negative impact on income per capita, which becomes positive from the second half of the 20th century onward. This pattern can be partially attributed to the reduction in the share of the landed elites in high-emigration regions. We show that the resulting fragmentation of agricultural holdings reduced labor productivity, depressing overall income levels in the short run; however, it facilitated the rise in human capital investments, eventually leading to a reversal in the pattern of regional comparative development.
We would like to thank Sascha Becker, Davide Cantoni, Guillaume Daudin, Melissa Dell, Oded Galor, Paola Giuliano, Moshe Hazan, Ruixue Jia, Oren Levintal, Omer Moav, Ben Olken, Elias Papaioannou, Gerard Roland, Nico Voigtlaender, David Weil, and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya as well as seminar participants at Brown, Harvard, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, NBER Summer Institute Political Economy & Income Distribution and Macroeconomics Workshop, Northwestern Kellogg, Paris-1, Princeton, Insead, NUS, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Sciences-Po, Tel Aviv, IDC Herzliya, Toronto, Warwick, and conference participants at the European Public Choice Society Meeting, the Israeli Economic Association conference, and the Warwick/Princeton conference for valuable suggestions. We thank Bernard Bodinier, Martin Fiszbein, and Nico Voigtlaender for sharing their data. We would also like to thank Nicholas Reynolds for superlative research assistance. All errors are our own responsibility. Stelios Michalopoulos and Raphael Franck have no relevant financial support to disclose in relationship to this project. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.