Research Workshop in Political Economy (Gov 3007)


Monday, January 29, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


CGIS Knafel K354

This seminar is closed to the public.

Co-taught by Professors Robert Bates, Torben Iversen, and Pia Raffler, the Research Workshop in Political Economy (Government 3007) is a year-long graduate seminar that aims to encourage cross-disciplinary research and excellence in graduate training. Political economy is a research tradition that explores how institutions affect political and economic outcomes. The workshop emphasizes the development of dissertation proposals and is a place where graduate students can present their research to an audience of committed and informed peers. It is open to graduate students in the Departments of Government and Economics, and the Program in Political Economy and Government. The workshop holds both internal and public seminars and meetings. At the internal meetings, approximately twelve per semester, graduate students and faculty present their own work to one another. At the public meetings, up to two per semester, leading scholars are invited to Harvard to present their work. Although the workshop is by invitation only, affiliates of the Weatherhead Center are encouraged to attend the public meetings.



 First, Cathrin Mohr will present her paper “Carrots or Sticks? Targeting the opposition in the German Democratic Republic.” Shom Mazumder will act as discussant.

Next, Hanno Hilbig will present his paper “Inheritance and Inequality,” and Casey Petroff will be the discussant.


Abstract for “Carrots or Sticks? Targeting the opposition in the German Democratic Republic.”

It is unclear how authoritarian states treat their opposition: Do they try to “buy off” the opposition, or do they punish it by allocating less resources to it? This paper sheds light on this question by considering the unique case of construction activity and military presence in the German Democratic Republic. Using a difference-in-difference approach I find that after an uprising in 1953, residential construction in municipalities that engaged in protests increased compared to construction in municipalities without protests. However, there is no difference in construction between protest and non- protest districts. Results are robust to the inclusion of regional and time fixed effects as well as flexible pre-trends. Protest municipalities are also more likely to have any military presence. This suggests that lower level governments actively tried to use carrots to deal with the opposition, while higher levels of governments used sticks.

Abstract for “Inheritance and Inequality.”

Why are some societies more unequal than others? The French revolutionaries believed unequal inheritances within families to be responsible for the strict social hierarchies of the Ancien Re´gime.  To achieve social equality, the revolutionaries therefore enforced equal inheritance rights. Their goal was to empower women and to disenfranchise the noble class. But, does equitable inheritance succeed in levelling the social playing field? We study Germany—a country with pronounced micro-level variation in inheritance customs—and find that municipalities that historically equally apportioned wealth, to this day, elect more women into political councils and see fewer aristocrats    in the social elite. Using historic data, we point to two mechanisms: increased wealth equality and more pronounced pro-egalitarian preferences.  Finally, we explore the role of incomes and find that equitable inheritance customs increase incomes and income in- equality. We interpret this finding to mean that equitable inheritance levels the playing field by rewarding talent, not status.