Acemoglu, D., Moscona, J., and Robinson, J.A. 2016. “State Capacity and American Technology: Evidence from the 19th Century.” American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 106(5): 61-67.
Moscona, J., Nunn, N., and Robinson, J.A.. 2017. “Keeping It in the Family: Lineage Organization and the Scope of Trust in Sub-Saharan Africa.” American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 107(5): 565-571.
Moscona, J., Nunn, N., and Robinson, J.A. "Kinship and Conflict: Evidence from Segmentary Lineage Societies in Sub-Saharan Africa." Working Paper. Revision Requested, Econometrica.
Abstract: We test the long-standing hypothesis that ethnic groups that are organized around 'segmentary lineages' are more prone to conflict. Ethnographic accounts suggest that in segmentary lineage societies, which are characterized by strong allegiances to distant relatives, individuals are obligated to come to the aid 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 particularly ones that are retaliatory, long in duration, and large in scale.
Abstract: This study investigates the relationship between the management of development aid and violent conflict in Africa. I exploit variation in World Bank project management quality driven by the assignment of project leaders of varying capacity, combined with geo-coded data on lending and project performance scores. I find that better project management reduces violent conflict across sub-national aid receiving regions. Poorly-managed projects increase conflict while well-managed projects do the opposite. Project monitoring is particularly important and management matters most in regions with a recent history of warfare. The results suggest that the quality of aid implementation affects patterns of conflict.
Moscona, J. "Agricultural Development and Structural Change, Within and Across Countries." Working Paper.
Abstract: This study exploits rapid technological development during the Green Revolution (1960-1990) to estimate the causal effect of agricultural productivity growth on structural change both within and across countries. Across districts in India, agricultural productivity growth spurred income growth, employment, and land use in the agricultural sector; it also reduced urban development and manufacturing employment. Using an analogous identification strategy across countries, I find that agricultural productivity increased country-level specialization in agricultural production and reduced urbanization. I find no evidence that agricultural productivity growth increased national income on average. Consistent with theory, estimated effects are most pronounced for districts and countries that were more open to trade in 1960; agricultural productivity growth had a negative impact on income in countries that were most open.
Moscona, J. "Environmental Catastrophe and the Direction of Invention: Evidence from the American Dust Bowl." Working Paper.
Abstract: Does innovation mitigate environmental catastrophe? I study this question in the context of the American Dust Bowl, an environmental disaster that eroded large swaths of the US Plains. Using data on county-level erosion, the historical geography of US crop production, and crop-specific technology development, I estimate the relationship between crop-specific damage from the Dust Bowl and innovative activity. The Dust Bowl shifted the direction of technological progress in US agriculture by inducing innovation in more damaged crops and, within crops, shifting innovation away from labor-complementing technologies (e.g. harvesters, mowers) and toward land-complementing technologies (e.g. seeds, fertilizers) that could directly address land productivity losses. Land values and agricultural revenue recovered more completely in counties that were better positioned to benefit from Dust Bowl-induced innovation because they grew crops that were more damaged on average. These results highlight the importance of endogenous technological progress in adaptation to environmental change.
Moscona, J. "Patent Protection, Invention, and Productivity: Evidence from U.S. Agriculture." Working Paper.
Abstract: Patent protection was introduced for novel crop varieties in 1985, and it affected crops differentially depending on their reproductive structures. Exploiting this variation across crops, I find that the introduction of patent protection increased innovative output, measured as the release of new plant varieties. It also increased private research investment and had positive spillover effects on innovation in complementary non-variety agricultural technologies. Next, I document that the introduction of patent protection increased productivity. First, I show that it led to an increase in crop yields. Second, I show that U.S. counties that, due to differences in crop-specific suitability, were more exposed to the change in patent law experienced an increase in land values following the introduction of patent protection. Even though more exposed counties increased spending on crop varieties, overall profits nevertheless increased, suggesting that productivity gains outweighed the higher cost of patented technologies. Despite these positive effects on average, large farms benefitted disproportionately and agricultural profits in areas with small farms declined following the introduction of patenting. Taken together, the results suggest that patent incentives had a major positive effect on innovation and downstream productivity, but also came with some distributional consequences.
Levy, A. and Moscona, J. "Specializing in Density: Spatial Sorting and the Pattern of Trade." Working Paper.
Abstract: This paper documents one way that domestic economic geography affects patterns of trade by showing that a country's population distribution is an important source of comparative advantage. We develop a model in which sector-specific exports are determined by the distribution of productivity and factors of production within countries, and show how city-level data can be aggregated to measure determinants of country-level specialization. In the model, countries with higher population-weighted population density specialize in sectors that benefit most from agglomeration. Empirically, we estimate and find substantial variation within the US in the extent to which manufacturing sectors sort into dense locations. Combining this measure of "density affinity'' with satellite data on the distribution of global population, we find that both US states and countries with higher population-weighted population density disproportionately export in sectors with high density affinity. Even conditional on aggregate endowments, the geographic distribution of population within states and countries affects comparative advantage.