Oxford Economic Papers

Published by Oxford University Press

Online ISSN: 1464-3812


Print ISSN: 0030-7653


Table 2 Fuel and power expenditure for non-agricultural working-class households in the Ministry of Labour 1937-38 household expenditure survey 
Table 4 Descriptive statistics (positive values) 
Table 4 Continued 
Table 6 Continued 
Table 6 Determining the extent of electricity use (multinomial logit) 
Power to the people: working-class demand for household power in 1930s Britain
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September 2011


104 Reads


The 1930s witnessed an intense struggle between gas and electricity suppliers for the working class market, where the incumbent utility—gas—was also a reasonably efficient (and cheaper) General Purpose Technology for most domestic uses. Local monopolies for each supplier boosted substitution effects between fuel types—as alternative fuels constituted the only local competition. Using newly-rediscovered returns from a major national household expenditure survey, we employ geographically-determined instrumental variables, more commonly used in the industrial organization literature, to show that gas provided a significant competitor, tempering electricity prices, while electricity demand was also responsive to marketing initiatives.

The Financial Crisis and the Well-Being of Americans

January 2012


120 Reads

I use daily data on self-reported well-being (SWB) to examine how the Great Recession affected the emotional and evaluative lives of the population. In the fall of 2008 and lasting into the spring of 2009, at the bottom of the stock market, Americans reported sharp declines in their life evaluation, sharp increases in worry and stress, and declines in positive affect. By the end of 2010, in spite of continuing high unemployment, these measures had largely recovered. The SWB measures do a better job of monitoring short-run levels of anxiety than the medium-term evolution of the economy. Even very large macroeconomic shocks will cause small and hard to detect effects on SWB. Life evaluation questions are extremely sensitive to question order effects—asking political questions first reduces reported life evaluation by an amount that dwarfs the effects of even the worst of the crisis.

Determinants of pollution: What do we really know?

July 2011


216 Reads

The recent literature proposes many variables as significant determinants of pollution. This paper gives an overview of this literature and asks which of these factors have an empirically robust impact on water and air pollution. We apply Extreme Bound Analysis (EBA) on a panel of up to 120 countries covering the period 1960–2001. We find supportive evidence of the existence of the environmental Kuznets curve for water pollution. Furthermore, mainly variables capturing the economic structure of a country affect air and water pollution.

Does inequality in health impede economic growth?

June 2011


223 Reads

This paper investigates the effects of inequality in health on economic growth in low and middle income countries. The empirical part of the paper uses an original cross-national panel data set covering 62 low and middle income countries over the period 1985 to 2007. I find a substantial and relatively robust negative effect of health inequality on income levels and income growth controlling for life expectancy, country and time fixed-effects and a large number of other effects that have been shown to matter for growth. The effect also holds if health inequality is instrumented to circumvent a potential problem of reverse causality. Hence, reducing inequality in the access to health care and to health-related information can make a substantial contribution to economic growth.

Modernization, weather variability, and vulnerability to famine

September 2011


166 Reads

This paper shows that under weather variability the transformation from a rural to an incomplete market economy can increase the vulnerability of peasants to famine. This can occur even if improvements in technology have raised agricultural productivity and made production less responsive to weather variability. Indeed, negative environmental shocks can produce a drop in wages that outweighs the increase in wages due to an equivalent positive environmental shock. Consequently, the amount of grain stored increases more slowly in good seasons than it decreases in bad ones. This paper gives new insights on the catastrophic effects produced by widespread droughts in India during the second half of the 19th century. Notwithstanding the introduction of new modes of production and the modernization of infrastructures, the interaction between environmental variability and new institutional arrangements might have contributed to increase the vulnerability of peasants to famine.

Taxing and Spending in the Long View: The Causal Structure of US Fiscal Policy, 1791-1913.

October 2000


15 Reads

Causal relations between US federal taxation and expenditure are analyzed using an approach based on the invariance of econometric relationships in the face of structural interventions. Institutional evidence for interventions or changes of regime and econometric tests for structural breaks are used to investigate the relative stability of conditional and marginal probability distributions for each variable. The patterns of stability are the products of the underlying causal order. Consistent with earlier work on the post World War II period, we find that dominant causal direction (with only a short-lived reversal) runs from taxes to spending in the period before World War I. Copyright 2000 by Oxford University Press.

The Irish Paper Pound of 1797-1820: Some Cliometrics of the Bullionist Debate.

January 1993


16 Reads

The analysis of the celebrated Bullion Report of 1810 was anticipated in large part by the lesser-known Currency Report of 1804. Both claimed that the phenomena under investigation--the depreciation of the Irish pound in 1803-04 and the rise in the price of gold in 1808-10--were exclusively monetary in origin. The paper uses cointegration techniques in order to test the proposition of the Irish Report. In that case, a 'hard' bullionist interpretation is insufficient to account for the observed exchange rate movements. Copyright 1993 by Royal Economic Society.

Aspects of the Theory of International Trade in France: 1800-1914.

February 1989


7 Reads

DESPITE the pathbreaking contributions to international trade theory of their contemporaries in Great Britain, 19th century French economists, according to a commonly-expressed point of view, displayed relatively little interest in or even awareness of the theories of comparative cost and of international values (reciprocal demand) or other aspects of trade theory. For example, at the turn of the century Bastable (1903, p. 171) had written: "The theory [of international trade] has had far less acceptance on the Continent [than in Britain]. French writers in particular have regarded it as unduly subtle, and as unnecessarily abstract." At about the same time a French authority (Sauvaire-Jourdan, 1900, pp. ii, iv) asserted that the theory of comparative cost, while finding its way to Germany, Holland, Italy, and the United States, had "par une fortune singuliere" remained almost unknown in France. Taussig (1915, p. 30) and Viner (1936, pp. 3-4) likewise contended that the theory of comparative cost was never widely accepted on the continent and, according to Schumpeter (1954, p. 607), it was never widely understood there even by free traders. (The term "continent" here was surely intended to include France and perhaps even refer mainly to it.) If these claims are valid-and it is not the purpose of this article to challenge them-a number of questions at once pose themselves: What kind of trade theory, it any, did French economists have? In what way or ways did some of them misunderstand the theory of comparative cost? What contributions if any did they make to trade theory? To what extent if any did they anticipate trade doctrines or concepts that were later to become standard? Little guidance in answering these questions can come from the writers cited above, for their claims were almost never documented. Answers can come only from a search of the 19th century literature itself-which will be understood here to cover the whole period 1800 to 1914.

Technology, Productivity, and Profits: British-American Whaling Competition in the North Atlantic, 1816-1842.

December 1987


5 Reads

In 1815, the North Atlantic whaling fleet was entirely British, but by 1842 almost every ve ssel was American. This paper analyzes the productivity and profitabi lity of the two fleets in an attempt to explain the near total Americ an victory in the competitive struggle off Greenland and in the Davis Straights. The analysis indicates that the American fleet was more p roductive and considerably more profitable, but that neither producti vity or profit differentials can completely explain the speed of the transition. A complete explanation must also include the effects of c hanges in British government policy. Copyright 1987 by Royal Economic Society.

Rational Expectations and Labour Market Equilibrium in Britain 1855-1913

August 1984


4 Reads

This paper tests a two equation model of supply and demand for labour for 1857-1913, the period which was the focus of the original Phillips curve study. The basic structure is an equilibrium model of the labour market with "classical" characteristics arising from a surprise supply function and the assumption that expectations are formed rationally i. e. in a way consistent with the model itself. Tests of exclusion restrictions on a general reduced form tend to weakly reject these joint hypotheses. Tests on a structural model reject unanticipated wage change in a favour of actual wage change as the appropriate variable in the supply function. This gives support to the original Phillips curve formulation.

Wealth concentration in the European periphery: Ireland, 1858--2001

September 2010


18 Reads

Using annual will indexes, a series of wealth concentration is constructed for the north of Ireland on a decennial basis for the period 1858 to 2001. Wealth was highly concentrated at the beginning of the sample period, but inequality falls towards the end of the nineteenth century and continues to fall until the 1970s. However, there does not appear to be a Kuznets-type process at work. Instead, using data on socio-occupational status, it is suggested that the fall in wealth concentration appears to be associated with the demise of the titled classes. Interestingly, similar to the findings of other studies, wealth has become more concentrated since the 1970s. Copyright 2010 Oxford University Press 2010 All rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

British Monetary Orthodoxy in the 1870s

March 1988


15 Reads

Surveys the content of orthodox classical monetary theory mainly as expounded by W. Bagehot, W. S. Jevons, and J. S. Mill. It deals in turn with the quantity theory of money, the credit cycle, money, interest rates and forced saving, international monetary issues, and the theory of monetary policy, as they were dealt with by these authors. Copyright 1988 by Royal Economic Society.

Getting Pegged: Comparing the 1879 and 1925 Gold Resumptions.

February 1998


230 Reads

We compare the resumption of convertibility into gold by the United Sutet in 1879 and Britain in 1925 to ascertain the degree to which the outcomes reflected differences in strategies adopted by the authorities or in the external environment We conclude that external factors were the most important determinant of the very different outcomes of the two episodes.

Mergers in British Manufacturing Industry, 1880-1918

March 1974


10 Reads

This essay examines the fate of the 100 largest industrial firms in the world in 1912 over the period to 1995. Disappearance and decline were the most common outcomes, but a few outstanding performers � firms like Burmah / BP and Procter & Gamble � left descendants eight or nine times their initial size, in "real stock exchange price" terms. There were no significant differences between the performance of giant German, British and American firms, other than a slightly greater tendency to disappear among American firms. The convergence of national performance of giant firms is probably related to converging strategies and structures of such firms in advanced industrial countries. Long-run differences in national economic performance in the twentieth century, at least among industrial leaders, are rooted elsewhere: in non-industrial sectors of the economy or smaller industrial firms. The analysis of the long-run evolution of giant firms also suggests that, while firms in "old" industries on average performed worse than those in "new" ones, the 1912 population included equal numbers of each and there was, in any case, greater variability of outcomes within than between industries. No simple formula enables us to discriminate ex ante between long-run corporate success and failure, for reasons inherent in the nature of modern corporate capitalism's success as an economic system.

The end of destitution: Evidence from urban British working households 1904-37

January 2012


18 Reads

We estimate the reduction, almost to elimination, of absolute poverty among working households in urban Britain between 1904 and 1937. We exploit two recently-digitized data sets. The paper presents a statistical generalization, to working families in the whole of urban Britain, of the poverty decline found in the town studies by, amongst other, Bowley and Rowntree. We offer corroborative evidence and perform a simulated decomposition of the poverty reduction into its proximate causes. The two most important causes were the rise, 1904--37, of about 30% in real wages on the one hand and the reduction of one-third in the number of people in the average household over the same period. Between them, these two changes imply a near doubling of the income per capita of an average household supported by a worker on the average wage. We conclude with a discussion of deeper causes. Copyright 2012 Oxford University Press 2011 All rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

Banking panics, bank failures, and the lender of last resort: The Showa Depression of 1930-1932

September 2009


70 Reads

By using bank-level data pertaining to the period of the Showa Depression in Japan, we examine whether banking panics caused solvent banks to close down and fail. We find that bank fundamentals were weakly related to the failures during the panics. This result implies that the confusion on the part of depositors regarding bank asset quality was not negligible during the panics. Further, we find that during the panics, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) selectively provided liquidity assistance to solvent banks that suffered heavy withdrawals. The BoJ as a lender of last resort prevented the closures of these solvent banks and mitigated the potential problems of the panics.

Table 2 Children Measured in the Boyd Orr Survey by Birth Order
Table 3 Effect of Birth Order on Height and BMI (family fixed effects regression)
Table 5 Effect of Family Size on Body Mass Index (Regression on family average BMI z-score, excluding twins)
Table 6
The effects on stature of poverty, family size, and birth order: British children in the 1930s

January 2010


521 Reads

This article examines the effects of socio-economic conditions on the standardized heights and body mass index (BMI) of children in Interwar Britain, using the Boyd Orr cohort, a survey of predominantly poor families taken in 1937--9. We examine the trade-off between child quality (in the form of health outcomes) and the number of children in the family. We find that birth order and family size have negative effects on the heights of children, but not on their BMI. Household income per capita positively influences height but, even after accounting for this, the number of children in the family has a negative effect on height. This latter effect is closely associated with overcrowding and with the degree of cleanliness or hygiene in the household, which conditions exposure to factors predisposing to disease. We also analyse follow-up data, which indicates that the effects of family size on height persisted into adulthood. Copyright 2010 Oxford University Press 2009 All rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

Roy Harrod and the Oxford Economists' Research Group's Inquiry on Prices and Interest, 1936-39

October 1998


21 Reads

In 1936-39, a group of Oxford tutors inquired, by means of interviews with entrepreneurs, on price policy and investment decisions. A chronology of the inquiry is outlined, based on the surviving documents found in various archives, focusing on the choice of the subject, on the attempts to provide a theoretical interpretation of the phenomena that were discovered, and on the publication of the results. The role of Roy Harrod is highlighted: it is assessed how far his theoretical approach to the cycle influenced the inquiry and to what extent he modified his view as a consequence of the group's findings. Copyright 1998 by Royal Economic Society.

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