The Origins of Common Identity: Evidence from Alsace-lorraine

Sirus H. Dehdari (Uppsala University)
Kai Gehring (University of Zurich)

Abstract : The quasi-exogenous division of the French regions Alsace and Lorraine after the Franco-Prussian War allows us to provide evidence about group identity formation within historically homogeneous regions. Using several measures of stated and revealed preferences spanning over half a century, we show that being exposed to occupation and repression for many decades caused a persistently stronger regional identity. The geographical RDD results are robust across a wide range of specifications. We document two mechanisms using data on regional newspapers and regionalist parties. The differences are strongest for the first two age cohorts after WWII and associated with preferences for more regional decision-making.

Waiting for Napoleon? Historical Democracy and Norms of Cooperation

Devesh Rustagi (Frankfurt and Brown)

Abstract : This paper uses a natural experiment to study the effect of historical experience of democracy on norms of cooperation today. In the Middle Ages, the extinction of the Zaehringen dynasty from the absence of an heir resulted in some Swiss municipalities acquiring historical forms of democracy, but the others continued largely under feudalism until Napoleon intervened. Behavioral and survey measures show that individuals from treated municipalities display stronger norms of cooperation than individuals from control group municipalities. These differences persist due to cultural transmission, as well as economic prosperity, education, and better functioning of democratic institutions in treated municipalities.