The Ronald H. Coase Dissertation Award 2021

Coase Award Winner 2021 Dmitrii Kofanov

By Federica Carugati

Committee members: Federica Carugati (King’s College London); Florian Englmaier (University of Munich); Michael Powell (Northwestern University); and Brian Silverman (University of Toronto).

Choosing a winner was, unoriginally but quite truthfully, not an easy process for the committee. Three finalists were selected from a pool of seven competitive candidates. All three wrote excellent dissertations, combining important questions with remarkable methodological and design skills to make significant contributions to their respective fields.

First, I will announce the two Honorable Mentions for the award, and then I will announce the winner of the award.

Jan Vogler receives an Honorable Mention for his dissertation “The Political Economy of Public Bureaucracy: The Emergence of Modern Administrative Organizations,” which explores the sources of variation in the organization and performance of bureaucracies across countries. Focused on the 19th and 20th centuries, the dissertation highlights the role of social classes in autonomous countries, and that of foreign rule in non-autonomous countries.

Hugh Xiaolong Wu receives an Honorable Mention for his dissertation “Field Experiments in Firms,” which studies the impact of three managerial practices—namely, authority delegation in hiring, managerial attention allocation, and the availability of peer performance information—on firm performance. The dissertation finds that local knowledge matters a great deal in producing productive employees; and that random allocation of managerial attention as well as the availability of information about the performance trajectory of high-performing peers enhance workers’ well-being and reduces attrition.

And now the winner. The 2021 Ronald H. Coase Dissertation award goes to Dmitrii Kofanov for his dissertation titled, “Land Inequality, Industrialization and Unrest: Evidence from the Late Russian Empire.” Dmitrii completed a PhD in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2020 and is now a postdoctoral researcher with the Institutions and Political Economy Research Group at the University of Barcelona.

Dmitrii’s dissertation explores the tension between economic development and political instability. The focus is on the distributional consequences of development for the landed peasantry in the late Russian Empire at the onset of industrialization. Whereas a great deal of literature in political economy has linked unrest with inequality, and inequality with development, Dmitrii’s dissertation provides a unitary framework for analyzing these factors, illuminating the role of economic losers of development. Combining in-depth case studies with formal modeling and quantitative analyses on two novel datasets, Dmitrii finds that the intensity of conflict depended on the levels of labor absorption and competition for local natural resources. In other words, as he puts it, “depending on the nature of industrial development, its utilization of labor and material resources, we can observe different patterns of its influence on peasant discontent, which can be both positive and negative.”

Dmitrii’s work contributes to shed light on a question at the heart of the political economy of development. The committee was impressed by the sophistication of the work, its logical and narrative unity, and the skillful use of historical data to cast a new light on a pressing contemporary problem.

The committee would like to thank all the scholars and mentors who participated in this year’s competition. We would also like to continue to strongly encourage young scholars of diverse backgrounds and experiences to submit their work for consideration in the future.