Negative Shocks and Mass Persecutions: Evidence from the Black Death

48 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2017 Last revised: 18 Mar 2017

See all articles by Remi Jedwab

Remi Jedwab

George Washington University - Department of Economics

Noel D. Johnson

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Mark Koyama

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: March 9, 2017

Abstract

In this paper we study the Black Death persecutions (1347-1352) against Jews in order to shed light on the factors determining when a minority group will face persecution. We develop a theoretical framework which predicts that negative shocks increase the likelihood that minorities are scapegoated and persecuted. By contrast, as the shocks become more severe, persecution probability may actually decrease if there are economic complementarities between the majority and minority groups. We compile city-level data on Black Death mortality and Jewish persecution. At an aggregate level we find that scapegoating led to an increase in the baseline probability of a persecution. However, at the city-level, locations which experienced higher plague mortality rates were less likely to engage in persecutions. Furthermore, persecutions were more likely in cities with a history of antisemitism (consistent with scapegoating) and less likely in cities where Jews played an important economic role (consistent with inter-group complementarities).

Keywords: Ethnic Conflict; Religious Conflict; Minorities; Persecutions, Massacres, Libels, Black Death, Jewish Economic History, Middle Ages, Epidemics, Cities, Trade

Suggested Citation

Jedwab, Remi and Johnson, Noel D. and Koyama, Mark, Negative Shocks and Mass Persecutions: Evidence from the Black Death (March 9, 2017). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 17-12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2930722 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2930722

Remi Jedwab

George Washington University - Department of Economics ( email )

Washington, D.C., DC
United States

Noel D. Johnson

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Mark Koyama (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mason.gmu.edu/~mkoyama2/About.html

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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