Our three new hires at George Mason economics

Nataliya Naumenko

Northwestern Ph.D, Brown post doc, Joel Mokyr student.  Here is her job market paper:

Job Market Paper

The Political Economy of Famine: the Ukrainian Famine of 1933 Download Job Market Paper (pdf)

Abstract: The famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine killed as many as 2.6 million people out of a population of approximately 30 million. Three main explanations have been offered: negative weather shock, poor economic policies, and genocide. This paper uses variation in exposure to poor government policies and in ethnic composition within Ukraine to study the impact of policies on mortality, and the relationship between ethnic composition and mortality. It documents that (1) the data do not support the negative weather shock explanation: 1931 and 1932 weather predicts harvest roughly equal to the 1925 — 1929 average; (2) bad government policies (collectivization and the lack of favored industries) significantly increased mortality; (3) collectivization increased mortality due to drop in production on collective farms and not due to overextraction from collectives (although the evidence is indirect); (4) back-of-the-envelope calculations show that collectivization explains at least 31\% of excess deaths; (5) ethnic Ukrainians seem more likely to die, even after controlling for exposure to poor Soviet economic policies; (6) Ukrainians were more exposed to policies that later led to mortality (collectivization and the lack of favored industries); (7) enforcement of government policies did not vary with ethnic composition (e.g., there is no evidence that collectivization was enforced more harshly on Ukrainians). These results provide several important takeaways. Most importantly, the evidence is consistent with both sides of the debate (economic policies vs genocide). (1) backs those arguing that the famine was man-made. (2) — (4) support those who argue that mortality was due to bad policy. (5) is consistent with those who argue that ethnic Ukrainians were targeted. For (6) and (7) to support genocide, it has to be the case that Stalin had the foresight that his policies would fail and lead to famine mortality years after they were introduced (and therefore disproportionately exposed Ukrainians to them).

Jonathan Schulz

Cultural economics and economic history, St. Gallen Ph.D, Harvard post doc, co-author with Joe Henrich.

Job market paper, “Catholic Church, Kin Networks, and Institutional Development“:

Political institutions vary widely around the world, yet the origin of this variation is not well understood. This study tests the hypothesis that the Catholic Church’s medieval marriage policies dissolved extended kin networks and thereby fostered inclusive institutions. In a difference-in-difference setting, I demonstrate that exposure to the Church predicts the formation of inclusive, self-governed commune cities before the year 1500CE. Moreover, within medieval Christian Europe, stricter regional and temporal cousin marriage prohibitions are likewise positively associated with communes. Strengthening this finding, I show that longer Church exposure predicts lower cousin marriage rates; in turn, lower cousin marriage rates predict higher civicness and more inclusive institutions today. These associations hold at the regional, ethnicity and country level. Twentieth-century cousin marriage rates explain more than 50 percent of variation in democracy across countries today.

Jonathan P. Beauchamp

Harvard Ph.D, assistant professor of economics at University of Toronto, he works in the new field genonomics and has co-authored with David Cesarini.  Here is his presentation on GWAS of risk tolerance:

Here is his paper (with co-authors) “Genome-wide association analyses of risk tolerance and risky behaviors in over one million individuals identify hundreds of loci and shared genetic influences.”

I am very much looking forward to their arrival, they all seem like great colleagues, and I am honored to have played a role on the recruiting committee.


Comments are way down. Happy Easter, and for the Greek with the young girlfriend, happy Easter next week.

@Viking, thanks, I'm also a Catholic now. The Great Schism of 1054 is over for me! (on my mother's side I'm Jewish, but they converted to Greek Orthodox, my matriarchal genes are actually from north Europe, were you are from).

My comments:

1) Nataliya Naumenko I hope can read Cyrillic. If the data supports it, she should see if "kulaks" were targeted, which I understood means any rich peasant.

2) Jonathan Schulz's paper goes directly to the Francis Fukayama thesis in "The Origins of Political Order". I hope he is familiar with this work, otherwise, I'm afraid GMU will have to rescind their offer. (Bonus trivia: in theory a university can rescind their degree from any graduate for nearly any reason, and the US courts have said they do not review private universities, nor even public ones, for due process when it comes to matters like this; that will keep anxious types up at night)

3) Jonathan P. Beauchamp, very trendy topic but is there really a 'behavioral economics' 'risk' gene? Isn't lifestyle also an influence? If you're an alcoholic that does NOT have the 'alcoholic gene', will this make you more impulsive when it comes to picking penny stocks? If so, there's no pure 'genetic' factor. Another candidate where possible diploma/job offer rescission is on the table.

There is no alcoholic gene. There are thousands of genes of very small effect that increase your risk for psychiatric illness, which increases your risk of addiction. We all have some of those genes, its just a matter of how many.

Looks like good hires. One economist understands the horrors of collectivization, another has learned cultural evolution from Henrich, and yet another is interested in genes.

Look like some good topics.

I'm glad to see cousin marriage catching on as a topic. I stumbled upon it back in 2002 and was amazed at how important it was relative to how unknown:



Cousin porn is very popular too, as with "step family" porn.

Bonus trivia: two cousins marrying and having kids, and I believe first cousins, only increase the chances of offspring genetic disease by less than 5%. Over time however, as with royal lines in Europe, it can become a problem.

#2: “Catholic Church, Kin Networks, and Institutional Development“ claims - "several researchers have pointed out, communes were essential for Europe’s development and for the emergence of national democracies."

How so? Democracy emerges through national bargaining between parliament and the land based aristocracy, particularly in England. Having things like the Sejm helps - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sejm#Kingdom_of_Poland

How exactly did medieval commune cities in France, Italy and Germany matter? At all?

Little mention of how parliamentary democracy actually formed in this paper.

Commune cities are going to negatively correlate with the medieval existence of a functional, centralized state* , which should correlate later in history with the continued centralized, and then functioning national democracy. So at a national level we should see an inverse relation between the presence of commune cities and national democracy, allowing for external invasions. Which we do see - is there any doubt Germany and Italy have a weaker endogenous democratic tradition than Poland, allowing for (repeated) invasion in the latter by Russia?

Commune cities are mostly going to be predicted by the absence of any strong state, and hence the flocking of burgher-would-bes to the free and thriving states on the post-Roman trade network. In turn, they're not going to predict democracy at a national level, once we account for the legacies of the autocratic Russian and Ottoman Empires.

*"The English state was already very centralized, so the communal movement mainly manifested itself in parishes, craftsmen's and merchants' guilds and monasteries." Not commune cities. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_commune

Cousin marriage: I suppose this explains South Carolina, where it’s common for first cousins to marry. Today’s NYT has a front pager on the level of incompetence at Boeing’s Charleston plant, where the locals who work there (non-union of course) use parts pulled from the trash bin and don’t clean up the aircraft (leaving stray parts and tools to rattle around and risk catastrophe) before its put in service.

Actually, there were persistent rumors that the 1889 Revolution would ban cousin marriage in Brazil and abandon the Gregorian calendar, but it was a misunderstanding due to ambiguous phrasing.

Remember, just because something is written in the NYT does not necessarily make it false.

But it's a good way to bet.

TPM please do readers of your comment a favor by informing them of news sources that tell the truth. I look forward to seeing the list in your response.

Sorry, I don't do replies. I only make drive-by idiotic comments and move on to the next thread.

Cousin marriage: I suppose this explains South Carolina, where it’s common for first cousins to marry.

In your imagination only.

That's somebody impersonating Ray.


#2, another thought about "civicness" and cousin marriage, you'd expect that if it really were true, then you'd see a correlation between how much a profusion of closed marriage networks you have generally, and not just those driven by kin substructure?

That would include between ethnic (language and ancestry) and religious closed networks, not just intra-religion exclusive kin networks. States that have had a history of commercially important urban ethnoreligious minorities should have weaker urban ("civic") institutions today, all else being equal. States with lots of them like the former Ottoman Empire (and to a lesser extent the Austro-Hungarian) should particularly suffer from this. You should see the Putnam type "Diversity is bad for civic virtue" when you look at deep, centuries old historical measures of diversity and present day civic participation.

(Indeed, I'd guess cousin marriage is more likely in ethnically and religiously broken (extremely "tolerant") states where there is less chance of coming across people with the same language and religion that aren't also relatives?).

Interesting research from the new hires. Most recruiting seminars that I attended this year were: "how did minor well-identified shock affected obesity rates"...a few regressions and zero economics...

IOW, all three hired from abroad and two of the three uninterested in the the study of economic phenomenon.

1. Suggestion to the administration of GMU: shut down the economics department. You really don't need a collection of dweebs staging raids on sociology and political science. Hire more sociologists and political scientists, if that's what you want.

2. Those of you trimmers who say they want 'skills-based immigration', this is what it's going to look like: a 'cosmopolitan' professional-managerial class importing people just like themselves. For an explanation, see "Jeb Bush Just Doesn’t Like Americans Very Much
John Derbyshire • March 6, 2013 • 1,900 Words • Leave a Comment"

In first place, it is not Jeb. It is Jeb! In second place, skills-based immigration is a tried way for raising the level of skills of a population,, which raises productivity and GDP.

I wouldn't have appointed a chap who says "Catholic" when he presumably means "Roman Catholic".

In American, it might be the difference between catholic and Catholic.

Is it that you're trivial or you think he should have explicitly excluded Eastern-rite eparchies from his study?

Congratulations to the new hires. I find it interesting none were hired directly from their Ph.D program. Two were post-docs, something that used to be - I think - very uncommon in econ. I have heard from my colleagues that expected time to completion of econ Ph.D's has gone up as well. I would be interested in hearing from Prof Cowen as to his views of the cause of this, and whether he thinks it is a good development.

New hires, get over here and START LICKING! Tenure consideration starts NOW!!!!

The bad-policy-vs.-genocide question is interesting, and it applies not just to Ukraine but to Maoist China too. Both sides of the political spectrum seem to have a vested interest in the “genocide” view, the right because they want to draw a moral equivalence between fascism (which definitely did commit genocide) and communism, and the left because they want to argue that the USSR and Maoist China weren’t “real” communism and the horrific outcomes were due to authoritarian oppression rather than the inherent problems with collectivization. But the evidence suggests both were primarily bad policy rather than intentional genocide.

Brilliant sense of direction. I must say Jon (Schulz') looks spot on in his exposition. Great timing on linking Genomics to Risk taking and as someone else also said it would be great to tie this culturally to Fukuyama's uproar on State formation and political decay

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