This thesis compiles three separate essays that make contributions in the fields of economic development and monetary economics.
The first essay provides new empirical results regarding the relationships between vital rates and real wages in England from 1540 to 1870. Renewed interest in these Malthusian interactions has been triggered by the unified growth theory, which analyzes the escape from an epoch of Malthusian stagnation and the transition to modern sustained growth. However, recent empirical studies have challenged the very existence of the Malthusian model in pre-industrial England. Unlike earlier studies, the present work explicitly models parameter instability and the decline in volatility using vector autoregressions with time-varying parameters and variances. This allows us to identify the main Malthusian mechanisms - positive and preventive checks - until the mid-18th century as well as track changes in their strength over the centuries. The most remarkable finding is the that the positive check, which other studies do not find after the early seventeenth century, was strongest only beginning in the 1750s.
The second essay contributes to the literature on the impact of institutions on economic development initiated by Douglass C. North. Starting with the influential work of Robert Putnam, the concept of social capital has gained increasing interest in this context. Using Putnam’s three measures for the so-called "civic-ness" of a society (i.e. electoral turnout, existence of local newspapers and participation in organizations), social capital is quantified for the Swiss cantons. In a regression analysis, social capital as well as human capital are found to play a role in explaining differences in regional economic development in the period between 1870 and 1910. Furthermore, a potential channel through which social capital affects economic development is identified. A small two-sector model is developed in which sectoral change triggered by human capital accumulation is facilitated by social capital via lower transaction costs.
The last essay analyzes Sweden’s exchange rate policy in the 1930s. Sweden belonged to the group of countries that first suspended the Gold Standard in 1931. These countries were also the first to recover from the havoc the Great Depression had caused to the world economy. In fact, Sweden experienced the strongest industrial recovery of all. The present essay argues that this was due not to innovative monetary or fiscal policy, but to the Swedish policy of deliberately keeping the krona undervalued. Evidence from archival sources of the Swedish central bank (Riksbank) together with new empirical evidence are provided to support this interpretation. A dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model of small open economy is estimated, revealing that the Swedish krona was indeed undervalued. A counterfactual analysis shows that a different exchange rate policy could have eliminated Sweden’s growth edge. These findings suggest that an export-led growth strategy was not an invention of the postwar world, but rather developed out of the discussion on the optimal exchange rate policy in the wake of the Great Depression.