Seminar on "Mobility and Mobilisation: Railways and the Spread of Social Movements",Eric Melander, Warwick University - February 8th
On February 8th from 12:00 to 1.00 Eric Melander from the University of Warwick will give a seminar on "Mobility and Mobilisation: Railways and the Spread of Social Movements".
The event will take place in room B, first floor, building B.
Abstract: How do reductions in interaction costs shape the diffusion of social movements? In this paper, I use a natural experiment from Swedish history to answer this question. During the thirty-year period 1881-1910, Swedish society underwent two transformative developments: the large-scale roll-out of a national railway network and the nascence of social movements which came to dominate social and political spheres well into the twentieth century. Using event-study and instrumental variables methodologies, I document the causal impact of proximity to the newly constructed railway network on the spread and growth of membership in these social movements. Well-connected municipalities were more likely to host a local movement organisation and saw more rapid growth of membership per capita. The movement of individuals is key: results are driven by passenger arrivals into connected municipalities, not freight arrivals. I implement a market access framework to uncover the mechanisms underlying this result: by reducing least-cost distances between municipalities, railways intensified the influence exerted by neighbouring concentrations of membership, thereby enabling social contagion. I explore the interrelationships between movement types, and show that railway access reduced levels of strategic substitutability between different groups.