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Was Domar Right? Serfdom and Factor Endowments in Bohemia

Alexander Klein () and Sheilagh Ogilvie

Studies in Economics from School of Economics, University of Kent

Abstract: Do factor endowments explain serfdom? Domar (1970) conjectured that high land-labor ratios caused serfdom by increasing incentives to coerce labor. But historical evidence is mixed and quantitative analyses are lacking. Using the Acemoglu-Wolitzky (2011) framework and controlling for political economy variables by studying a specific serf society, we analyze 11,349 Bohemian serf villages in 1757. The net effect of higher land-labor ratios was indeed to increase coercion. The effect greatly increased when animal labor was included, and diminished as land-labor ratios rose. Controlling for other variables, factor endowments significantly influenced serfdom. Institutions, we conclude, are shaped partly by economic fundamentals.

Keywords: serfdom; land-labor ratio; institutions; labor coercion; rural-urban interaction (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J47 N33 O43 P48 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his
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