Friday, October 26, 2007

The economics of witchcraft

A cute paper by Emily Oster (a former TA of my Econometric class at Harvard, now at Chicago), published when she was a student. An excerpt from the paper:
This paper explores the possibility that the witchcraft trials are a large-scale example of violence and scapegoating prompted by a deterioration in economic conditions. In this case, the downturn was brought on by a decrease in temperature and resulting food shortages. The most active period of the witchcraft trials coincides with a period of lower than average temperature known to climatologists as the “little ice age.” The colder temperatures increased the frequency of crop failure, and colder seas prevented cod and other fish from migrating as far north, eliminating this vital food source for some northern areas of Europe (Fagan, 2000).
On witch hunting -- here's a documentation of my visit to Salem, Mass. A place famous (or notorious) for the 17th century witch hunt hysteria.


  1. Salem, Mass. : cashing in on an evil past.

    I saw a salem ad something like this: "you would not have like it being here in 1692, but you really ought to experience it now. Stop by for a spell."

  2. Here's a sign I read in front of a house in Manhattan Beach, CA (somewhere near LAX): "Witch parking only -- others will be TOAD!"