Abstract: Do politicians select public sector employees via patronage to win votes while sacrificing performance? I combine newly digitized personnel records on the selection, careers, and performance of 5,795 New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers with geolocated information on all voters and election results in the city for 1900-1916. The linked data reveals that 21% of the police officers were appointed in a deviation from civil service rules. These patronage employees were more likely to be connected to leaders of Tammany Hall, the city's incumbent Democratic Party organization. I use a difference-in-differences design to show that patronage appointments increased Democratic registration by 10.3% within the 50-meter radius around the employee's residential address. This electoral response – and complementary results on promotions tied to electoral support – suggest that patronage employees are incentivized to mobilize the votes of their neighbors. The electoral logic of patronage jobs in exchange for votes has implications for performance: Patronage employees perform considerably worse than their meritocratically selected peers.
Using newly collected data on death rates and aerial victories of more than 5,000 German fighter pilots during World War II, we examine the effects of public recognition on performance and risk-taking. When a particular pilot is honoured publicly, both the victory rate and the death rate of his former peers increase. Fellow pilots react more if they come from the same region of Germany, or if they worked closely with him. Our results suggest that personal rivalry can be a prime motivating force, and that non-financial rewards can lead to a crowd-in of both effort and risk-taking via social connections.
(with Ernesto Dal Bó, Karolina Hutkova, and Noam Yuchtman)
Conditionally Accepted at Journal of Economic History
We evaluate the role of taxes on trade in the development of imperial Britain’s fiscal-military state. Influential work, e.g., Brewer’s (1989) "Sinews of Power," attributed increased fiscal capacity to the taxation of domestic, rather than traded, goods: excise revenues, coarsely associated with domestic goods, grew faster than customs revenues. We construct new historical revenue series disaggregating excise revenues from traded and domestic goods. We find substantial growth in taxes on traded goods, accounting for over half of indirect taxation around 1800. This challenges the conventional wisdom attributing the development of the British state to domestic factors: international factors mattered, too.
Work in Progress
Replacing the Ties That Bind: Welfare State Expansion, Mobility, and Modernization
Screening for Candidates: The Role of the Party in Political Selection
(with Tuomas Kari)
Market Structure and Competition for Indigenous Trade
(with Davis Kedrosky and Chiara Motta)
From Rivals to Partners: The Alignment of Capital and State Coercion in the Rise of Modern Economic Growth