The political economy of mass society
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In this dissertation, I study three key aspects related to the causes and consequences of the onset of the Age of the Masses. I do so by drawing evidence from historical natural experiments and historical data from the early Twentieth Century from the United States and Italy. In the first chapter, I leverage the expansion of radio networks in the United States to identify the impact of access to mass media on cultural homogenization. Exploiting exogenous variation in radio signal reception induced by soil characteristics and stations' tower growth over time, I provide evidence that network access homogenized American culture. Homogenization occurred through the assimilation of white immigrant and black households towards mainstream white native culture. Focusing on names from baseball players, I suggest that aspirational naming is a key mechanism to explain certain features of the results. In the second chapter, I study the impact of World War I on Mussolini's electoral success. I collect military fatalities for the universe of Italian municipalities, which is matched to municipal level voting in the 1924 election. I find that a higher share of fatalities increased the vote share for Fascism. I decompose the effect of the fatalities rate by its intensity to show that the number of fatalities interacted positively with the number of veterans back from the frontline. I interpret this as evidence that Fascist support was driven by municipalities where the high number of fatalities was matched by veterans scarred by the war experience. The last chapter looks at the role of child labor legislation (CLL) in lowering child labor rates in the United States. Turning to the newly-digitized complete count census data from 1880 to 1930, we find large effects of CLLs on child labor. While the laws reduced labor of boys and girls equally, the laws did had differential effects, binding in urban areas and especially in the largest cities and more for the children of foreign-born parents. Children with parents working in manufacturing and textiles were especially affected by the labor restrictions. CLLs had limited effects on the odds of African American boys or girls working.
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