Biological welfare and the commons: A natural experiment in the Alps, 1765–1845

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In the late 18th century hundreds self-governing alpine communities in Northern Italy came under the direct control of centralized states (Austria and France) at different times. We exploit the timing and location of these interventions in a DD type design to investigate the effects of removing CPR institutions on biological welfare. We find a significant and persistent increase in infant mortality rates and a more modest decrease in birth rates as a result of state centralization. We provide evidence that these demographic changes reflect a critical loss of natural resource income caused by the disruption of communal institutions. Impacts are most severe in communities that have no prior experience with formal institutions.

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