Overkill, Extinction, and the Neolithic Revolution (Job Market Paper)
This research explores the biogeographical origins of the emergence and diffusion of agriculture. I develop a model showing that large-herbivore extinction decreased hunting gains and permitted an earlier agricultural transition. It also shows that mammals’ biological vulnerability increased the extinction risk and promoted an earlier transition. To test the predictions, I construct a novel measure of the loss of hunting resources resulting from mammal extinction. Using multiple datasets and exploiting the biological vulnerability as an instrument for the extinction, the research establishes a positive impact of the extinction on the timing and the likelihood of the agricultural transition. It also shows a persistent effect of the prehistoric extinction on socioeconomic development that lasted until the preindustrial period.
Horses, Battles, and the State
This research explores the effect of horses on the state and on historical battles. It exploits multiple exogenous sources of variation in the adoption of horse riding on the battlefield: (i) the exogenous regional variation in the spread of horse-riding technology, (ii) the exogenous variation in the availability of native horses, and (iii) the exogenous change in the availability of horses in the Americas during the Columbian Exchange. The research, using these exogenous variations and multiple datasets spanning several millennia, provides repeated evidence of the significant impact of horses on state formation and on historical battles. Rich historical accounts support the critical role of cavalry in state formation through its influence as a source of military power.
Biogeographical Origins of Risk Preference
This paper explores the biogeographical origins of differences in risk preference across regions and individuals. The theory shows that individuals whose ancestors lived in regions that had abundant hunting resources tend to be more risk averse. Such regions attracted even risk-averse individuals and thus the population became more risk averse. To test the hypothesis, I construct a novel measure of megaherbivore biomass. I find that this measure is a strong predictor of hunting dependency in traditional societies. I show that, consistent with the theory, descendants of inhabitants of regions characterized by larger megaherbivore biomass have higher risk aversion.
Work in Progress
American Prosperity: The Role of Upper-Tail Human Capital
Human Admixture: The Short- and Long-Run Impacts on Development