Job Market Paper:

Historical Conflict and Contemporary Economic Preferences [ Draft ]

Abstract: This paper investigates the violent origins of contemporary time and risk preferences, commonly referred to as patience and risk-taking. I test the hypothesis that patience and risk-taking – both vital traits for economic development – are formed endogenously as a function of historical exposure to large-scale conflict. I combine a new geocoded dataset of pre-industrial historical conflict (1200-1700 C.E.) with data from the Global Preferences Survey. Using subnational variation, I find that historical conflict lowers contemporary patience significantly. The effect on risk-taking is ambiguous. Results are robust to an instrumental variables approach. These findings are consistent with an evolutionary framework of endogenous preference formation in which conflict lowers incentives for long-term investment behavior due to increased expropriation risk in the decision environment.

Research in Progress:

Adaptive Capacity of Rural Main Streets in Developing Countries

Abstract: How adaptive are rural main street firms to connectivity infrastructure? I study this question in a developing country context. I estimate the effects of highway linkages on the growth of small rural manufacturing firms in Pakistan’s Punjab province. To accomplish this, I use a unique panel dataset of 92,947 manufacturing firms that operate out of non-residential establishments in Punjab’s rural areas. In my spatial analysis, I compare firm growth in highway-connected areas with three policy-relevant counterfactuals at the level of a 0.1-degree grid-cell. The richness of the dataset allows me to estimate rural manufacturing growth along the extensive and intensive margins from 1995 to 2010. I also estimate growth through night light density and rural settlement area. I find that once connected to a highway, rural main streets that are closer to a city adapt more than rural main streets that are equidistant from two cities. Overall, rural manufacturing growth in cells along the new highway is significantly lower when compared to cells along a 1,500 year-old trade route that passes through rural Punjab. The findings of this paper shed light on the dynamics of rural manufacturing firms in developing countries, an under-researched area in the structural change literature.

District Development Product: Estimating Regional Economic Activity in Pakistan Using Satellite Data

Abstract: This project uses multiple sources of publicly accessible remotely sensed satellite data as the primary source for estimating Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the district level. In the absence of a formal System of Regional Accounts (SRA) which requires repeat economic censuses, the District Domestic Product (DDP) can be a sufficient statistic for tracking economic growth and development at lower administrative levels where identification and preparation (PC-I) of development projects takes place. The author intends to build a unique panel dataset of DDP estimates for Pakistan from 2010, using satellite imagery on night-time luminosity, agricultural land-use, crop choice, and phyto mass growth. In addition to empowering local governance, this dataset can be leveraged to causally evaluate the allocative efficiency gains of public funds.

Introducing the Historical Conflict Dataset: A New Source of Event-Level Conflict Data, 0–1900 C.E.