‘Getting to Denmark’: the role of agricultural elites for development

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We explore the role of elites for development and the spread of industrialized dairying in Denmark in the 1880s. We demonstrate that the location of early proto-modern dairies, introduced by landowning elites from northern Germany in the eighteenth century, explains the location of industrialized dairying in 1890: an increase of one standard deviation in elite influence increases industrialized dairying by 56 percent of the mean exposure in one specification. We interpret this as evidence for a spread of ideas from the elites to the peasantry, which we capture through measures of specialization in dairying and demand for education and identify a causal relationship using an instrument based on distance to the influential first mover. Finally, we demonstrate that areas with cooperatives enjoyed greater wealth by the twentieth century, and that they are today associated with other Danish cultural attributes: a belief in democracy and individualism.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Economic Growth
Pages (from-to)1-45
Publication statusPublished - 3. Apr 2023


  • Cooperatives
  • Denmark
  • Institutions
  • Knowledge spillovers
  • Landowning elites
  • Technology


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