Attracting science

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Did the early Industrial Revolution in England increase the valuation of upper-tail human capital? One way to test this question is to look at changes in the patterns of upper-tail human capital over time. This paper introduces a new micro-measure of the presence of scientific upper-tail human by coding all the lifetime movements of the fellows of the Royal Society between 1660 and 1800. Using this new measure of scientific upper-tail human capital, the paper finds that the stock of upper-tail human capital in industrialising regions increased significantly at the onset of the Industrial Revolution. The paper then uses a synthetic difference-in-difference approach based on the activation of coal reserves to establish causality. It finds that early industrialization had a lasting impact on the locally born stock of scientists. However, it finds that this increase in scientific upper-tail human capital was not driven by the in-migration of scientists. Instead the increase in upper-tail human capital in Britain’s industrializing centres seems to have been driven by an elastic local supply of upper-tail human capital. Since an advanced education was a necessary condition for joining Britain’s scientific elite, these findings are indirect evidence of the presence of a dynamic provision of education in the industrialising periphery of Britain.

Julius Koschnick
Julius Koschnick
PhD Student

I am a PhD student at the Department of Economic History at the London School of Economics. I am on the job market this year. My research interests include long-run growth, human capital, knowledge transmission, and natural language processing.