David De La Croix

David De La Croix

dates de séjour

04/09/2017 - 29/12/2017






Université de Louvain

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Did elite human capital trigger the industrial revolution? Insights from a new database of scholars from European universities

Our aim is to determine whether elite knowledge and upper tail human capital (UTHC) were critical in triggering the rise of the West. We propose to build a database of a large sample of university professors and members of academies in Europe over the period 1400CE-1850CE. This database will integrate and harmonize the existing university specific databases, include the information available from published books and from electronic resources, and be completed by in depth research in universities for which the data is not yet available. To measure quality of scholars we will match this database with the existing databases of published books and historical biographies.
Second, we will exploit the variation in the density, composition and quality of UTHC across time, space, fields, and the variation in longevity and migration of UTHC to measure the correlation between UTHC and the adoption of new techniques and better institutions, and the development of cities. We will perform causal identification using both instrumental methods and exogenous variations in the creation of universities and in the density of UTHC.
Third, we will develop and test a new theory of the complementarity between elite knowledge and arti-sanal techniques, in order to identify departures from the efficient allocation of talents in the short and long-run. A second new theoretical model will be devoted to revealing the dynamic interactions between conservative and modern forces within universities and learned societies; the key trade-off here is between keeping the old thinking (satisfying vested interests) and developing new approaches and fields, allowing scholarly elites to change culture and promote economic development. We finally measure the relative importance of these theoretical mechanisms and how intellectual elites and society interact with our database.


David de la Croix (born 1964, PhD 1992) is Professor of Economics and member of both IRES and CORE at UCLouvain (Belgium). He has taught on a visiting basis at UCLA, Copenhagen, Aix-Marseille, Nanterre, Capetown, Sao Paulo and Rostock. He is the instigator and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Demographic Economics, and was associate editor for the Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, the Journal of Development Economics, and the Journal of Public Economic Theory. His research interests cover demographic economics, human capital, conflict between generations, and growth. His choice of topics reveals that he is mostly interested in understanding households’ incentives in the present and in the past. Working with 48 co-authors, he has published over 80 research articles (including in journals such as American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Growth and Review of Economic Studies), and a treatise on Economic Growth co-authored with Philippe Michel. He has also written a number of policy briefs addressed to a more general audience. And he has advised 18 doctoral dissertations.