Mara P. Squicciarini

Bocconi University
Department of Economics
Via Roentgen, 1
Milan 20136

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Institutional Affiliation: Bocconi University

NBER Working Papers and Publications

July 2020Technology Adoption and Productivity Growth: Evidence from Industrialization in France
with Réka Juhász, Nico Voigtländer: w27503
We construct a novel dataset to examine the process of technology adoption during a period of rapid technological change: The diffusion of mechanized cotton spinning during the Industrial Revolution in France. Before mechanization, cotton spinning was performed in households, while production in firms only emerged with the new technology around 1800. This allows us to isolate the firm productivity distribution of new technology adopters. We document several stylized facts that can explain the well-documented puzzle that major technological breakthroughs tend to be adopted slowly across firms and – even after being adopted – take time to be reflected in higher aggregate productivity: The productivity of firms in mechanized cotton spinning was initially highly dispersed. Over the subsequent...
October 2016Knowledge Elites and Modernization: Evidence from Revolutionary France
with Nico Voigtländer: w22779
This paper examines the role of knowledge elites in modernization. At the eve of the French Revolution, in the spring of 1789, King Louis XVI solicited lists of grievances (Cahiers de Doléances), in which the public could express complaints and suggestions for reforms of the Ancien Regime. We show that the demand for mass education and democratization was particularly high in regions that had a thick knowledge elite, measured by subscribers to the famous Encyclopédie in the 1770s. Historical evidence suggests that this pattern is driven by the spirit of enlightenment of French knowledge elites. Pre-revolution literacy, in contrast, is not correlated with demand for mass education or with the density of knowledge elites. After the French Revolution, knowledge elites played a key role in imp...
June 2014Human Capital and Industrialization: Evidence from the Age of Enlightenment
with Nico Voigtländer: w20219
While human capital is a strong predictor of economic development today, its importance for the Industrial Revolution has typically been assessed as minor. To resolve this puzzling contrast, we differentiate average human capital (literacy) from upper-tail knowledge. As a proxy for the historical presence of knowledge elites, we use city-level subscriptions to the famous Encyclopédie in mid-18th century France. We show that subscriber density is a strong predictor of city growth after the onset of French industrialization. Alternative measures of development such as soldier height, disposable income, and industrial activity confirm this pattern. Initial literacy levels, on the other hand, are associated with development in the cross-section, but they do not predict growth. Finally, by join...

Published: Mara P. Squicciarini & Nico Voigtländer, 2015. "Human Capital and Industrialization: Evidence from the Age of Enlightenment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol 130(4), pages 1825-1883. citation courtesy of

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