My research interests are in political economy, economic development, economic history, cultural economics, and international trade. I am an NBER Faculty Research Fellow, a Research Fellow at BREAD, and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) in the Boundaries, Membership & Belonging program. I am currently an editor at the Quarterly Journal of Economics.
One stream of my research focuses on the historical and dynamic process of economic development. In particular, I have studied the factors that shape differences in the evolution of institutions and cultures across societies. I have published research that studies the historical process of a wide range of factors that are crucial for economic development, including distrust, gender norms, religiosity, norms of rule-following, conflict, immigration, state formation, and support for democracy.
Another stream of my research examines economic development in a contemporary context. I have published research examining the effects of Fair Trade certification, CIA interventions during the Cold War, foreign aid, school construction, and trade policy. I am particularly interested in the importance of the local context (e.g., social structures, traditions, and cultures) for the effectiveness of development policy and in understanding how policy can be optimally designed given the local environment. Specifically, I have studied the relationship between marriage customs and female education, generalized trust and political turnover, the organization of the extended family (lineage) and conflict, and traditional local political systems and support for democracy.
My current research interests lie in better understanding the importance of local culture and context for economic policies, particularly in developing countries. I obtained my PhD from the University of Toronto.
Herding, Warfare, and a Culture of Honor: Global Evidence. (with Cao Y, Enke B, Falk A, Giuliano P.)
Transhumant Pastoralism, Climate Change, and Conflict in Africa. (with McGuirk E)
After The Burning: The Economic Effects of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. (with Albright A, Cook J, Feigenbaum J, Kincaide L, Long J)
Distrust and Political Turnover. (with Qian N, Wen J.)
The Long-Run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900. (with Iyigun M, Qian N)
Restraining Ourselves: Helping by Not Hurting. Economics for Inclusive Prosperity Policy Brief 19. 2020
Understanding the Long-Run Effects of Africa's Slave Trades. eBook: The Long Economic and Political Shadow of History, Volume 2. 2017.
AEA Distinguished Lecture. On the Dynamics of Human Behavior: The Past, Present, and Future of Culture, Conflict, and Cooperation. (American Economic Association Papers and Proceedings, 112: 15-37.
The Effects of Fair Trade Certification. (with Dragusanu R, Montero E) Journal of the European Economic Association. Forthcoming.
Understanding Cultural Persistence and Change. (with Giuliano P) Review of Economic Studies. 2021; 88 (4): 1541-1581.
Bride Price and Female Education. (with Ashraf N, Bau N, Voena A.) Journal of Political Economy. 2020; 128 (2) 591-641.
Segmentary Lineage Organization and Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. (with Moscona J, Robinson JA.) Econometrica. 2020; 88 (5): 1999-2036
Immigrants and the Making of America. (with Sequeira S, Qian N.) Review of Economic Studies. 2020; 87 (1): 382-419.
Innis Lecture: Rethinking Economic Development. Canadian Journal of Economics. 2019; 52 (4): 1349-1373.
Genetic Legacy of State Centralization in the Kuba Kingdom of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (with van Dorp L, Lowes S, Weigel JL, Ansari-Pour N, Lopez S, Mendoza-Revilla J, Robinson JA, Henrich J, Thomas MG, Nunn N, et al.) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 2019; 116 (2): 593-598.
Traditional Agricultural Practices and the Sex Ratio Today. (with Alesina A, Giuliano P) PLoS ONE. 2018; 13 (1): e0190510.
Ancestral Characteristics of Modern Populations. (with Giuliano P) Economic History of Developing Regions. 2018; 33 (1): 1-17.
The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence from the Kuba Kingdom. (with Lowes S, Robinson JA, Weigel J.) Econometrica. 2017; 85 (4): 1065-1091.
Keeping It in the Family: Lineage Organization and the Scope of Trust in Sub-Saharan Africa. (with Moscona J, Robinson JA.) American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings. 2017; 107 (5): 565-571.
Why Being Wrong can be Right: Magical Warfare Technologies and the Persistence of False Beliefs. (with de la Sierra RS.) American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings. 2017; 107 (5): 582-587.
Understanding Ethnic Identity in Africa: Evidence from the Implicit Association Test (IAT). (with Lowes S, Robinson JA, Weigel J.) American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings. 2015; 105 (5): 340-345.
The Economics of Fair Trade. (with Dragusanu R, Giovannucci D) Journal of Economic Perspectives. 2014; 28 (3): 217-236.
U.S. Food Aid and Civil Conflict. (with Qian N.) American Economic Review. 2014; 104 (6): 1630-1666.
The Transmission of Democracy: From the Village to the Nation-State. (with Giuliano P) American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings. 2013; 103 (3): 86-92.
Incomplete Contracts and the Boundaries of the Multinational Firm. (with Trefler D) Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 2013; 94 (1): 330-344.
Commercial Imperialism? Political Influence and Trade During the Cold War. (with Berger D, Easterly W, Satyanath S.) American Economic Review. 2013; 103 (2): 863-896.
On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough. (with Alesina A, Giuliano P) Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2013; 128 (2): 469-530.
Culture and the Historical Process. Economic History of Developing Regions. 2012; 27 (S1): 108-126.
Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa. (with Puga D) Review of Economics and Statistics. 2012; 94 (1): 20-36.
The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa. (with Wantchekon L) American Economic Review. 2011; 101 (7): 3221-3252.
The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from a Historical Experiment. (with Qian N) Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2011; 126 (2) : 593-650.
Fertility and the Plough. (with Alesina A, Giuliano P) American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings. 2011; 101 (3): 499-503.
The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas. (with Qian N) Journal of Economic Perspectives. 2010; 24 (2): 163-188.
The Structure of Tariffs and Long-Term Growth. (with Trefler D) American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics. 2010; 2 (4): 158-194.
Religious Conversion in Colonial Africa. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings. 2010; 100 (2): 147-152.
The Importance of History for Economic Development. Annual Review of Economics. 2009; 1 (1): 65-92.
The Long Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades. Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2008; 123 (1): 139-176.
Historical Legacies: A Model Linking Africa's Past to its Current Underdevelopment. Journal of Development Economics. 2007; 83 (1): 157-175.
Relationship-Specificity, Incomplete Contracts and the Pattern of Trade. Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2007; 122 (2): 569-600.
On the Causes and Consequences of Cross-Cultural Differences: An Economic Perspective. In: Gelfand M, Chiu C-yue, Hong Y-yi Advances in Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press; Forthcoming.
History as Evolution. In: Handbook of Historical Economics. New York: North Holland; 2021. pp. 41-91.
Bride Price and the Wellbeing of Women. (with Lowes S) In: Anderson S, Beaman L, Platteau J-P Towards Gender Equity in Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2018. pp. 117-138.
The Determinants of Food Aid Provisions to Africa and the Developing World. (with Qian N)
In: Edwards S, Johnson S, Weil DN African Successes: Sustainable Growth. Vol. IV. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press; 2016. pp. 161-178.
Domestic Institutions as a Source of Comparative Advantage. (with Trefler D) In: Gopinath G, Helpman E, Rogoff K Handbook of International Economics. Vol. 4. North Holland; 2014. pp. 263-315.
Gender and Missionary Influence in Colonial Africa. In: Akyeampong E, Bates R, Nunn N, Robinson JA Africa's Development in Historical Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2014. pp. 489-512.
Historical Development. In: Aghion P, Durlauf S Handbook of Economic Growth. Vol. 2. North-Holland; 2014. pp. 347-402.
Shackled to the Past: The Causes and Consequences of Africa's Slave Trade.
In: Diamond J, Robinson JA Natural Experiments of History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 2010. pp. 142-184.
Slavery, Inequality, and Economic Development in the Americas: An Examination of the Engerman-Sokoloff Hypothesis. In: Helpman E Institutions and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 2008. pp. 148-180.
The Boundaries of the Multinational Firm: An Empirical Analysis. (with Trefler D) In: Helpman E, Marin D, Verdier T The Organization of Firms in a Global Economy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 2008. pp. 55-83.
Africa's Development in Historical Perspective. (with Akyeampong E, Bates RH, Nunn N, Robinson JA) New York: Cambridge University Press; 2014.
For media work, presentations, and more, please visit my personal website.