Moscona, J., Nunn, N., and Robinson, J.A. "Segmentary Lineage Organization and Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa." Supplementary Materials here. Webpage Appendix here. Theoretical Note here. Econometrica 88(5): 1999-2036.
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.
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. "Flowers of Invention: Patent Protection and Productivity Growth in US Agriculture." Working Paper.
Abstract: Patent protection was introduced for novel plant varieties in 1985, and it affected crops differentially depending on their reproductive structures. Exploiting this variation across crops and a new data set of crop-specific technology development, I find that the introduction of patent protection increased the development of novel plant varieties in affected crops. New technology development was driven by a rapid increase in private research investment, accompanied by positive spillover effects on innovation in complementary non-biological agricultural technologies, and led to an increase in crop yields measured from data on production. Patent rights, however, can come with significant trade-offs for users of technology, and an increase in technological progress is a necessary but insufficient condition for downstream benefits. Nevertheless, I document that in U.S. counties that were more exposed to the change in patent law because of their crop composition, agricultural land values and profits increased despite the fact that, intuitively, expenditure on crop varieties also went up. Taken together, the results suggest that patent incentives spurred technology development and shaped the distribution of downstream productivity and profits by benefitting places that were most exposed to the change in legal regime.
Moscona, J. and Sastry, K. "Does Innovation Mitigate Climate Damage? Evidence from US Agriculture Since 1960." Working Paper.
Abstract: We investigate how innovation reacts to climate change and shapes its economic impacts. Our empirical focus is the US agricultural sector, where we combine data on the geography of agricultural production, shifting temperature distributions, and crop-specific temperature tolerance in order to estimate crop-specific temperature distress, and we use a database of crop-specific variety releases and patent grants in order to measure agricultural technology development. New technology, and particularly novel plant variety development, has been systematically re-directed toward crops that have been exposed to greater temperature distress. The national climate distress of a given US county's crops, which determines the extent to which that location was positioned to benefit from new innovation, significantly dampens the economic effects of local climate distress. Using these estimates, we find that directed innovation has negated about 20% of the economic damage of climate change on US agriculture since 1960, and will negate about 16% of damage over the next 50 years.
Moscona, J. "Environmental Catastrophe and the Direction of Invention: Evidence from the American Dust Bowl." Working Paper.
Abstract: Does innovation mitigate damage from environmental catastrophe? I study this question in the context of the American Dust Bowl. 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 exposure to the Dust Bowl and technology development. The Dust Bowl shifted the direction of technological progress in US agriculture by inducing innovation in more exposed crops and, within crops, shifting innovation disproportionately toward biological and chemical technologies that could directly address land productivity losses (e.g. new plant varieties). 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 the process of adaptation to crises.
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.
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 new strategy to estimate both the "population density affinity'' of each industry and the "population concentration'' of each country. We show that both US states and countries with more concentrated populations disproportionately export in sectors with high population density affinity. The findings are similar using an instrumental variables strategy in which we exploit variation in countries' historical city size distribution to construct instruments for modern population concentration. We rationalize these findings with a model in which sector-specific exports are determined by the distribution of productivity 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. Even conditional on aggregate endowments, our results suggest that the distribution of population within countries and the extent to which population is concentrated in dense cities shape comparative advantage.
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.