Da LiFollow


Klaus Desmet

Subject Area



Chapter 1 studies how land reforms mediate the rural-urban migration response to climate shocks in India. Using a district-level panel, we find that regions that benefit from land reforms that raise local income experience more climate-induced migration. In contrast, when land reforms promote land ownership, regions experience less climate-induced migration. These results suggest that owning less liquid assets in the form of land may keep rural households from moving when faced with climate shocks.

Chapter 2 investigates whether a country’s shape affects its development level. I empirically investigate this question by proposing several novel shape measures and estimating their relationship with GDP per capita. First, I focus on two pure geometric properties: compactness and orientation. Compactness reflects the expected geodesic distance between a random pair of locations in a certain country. Orientation measures the orientation of a country’s axis. I find compactness has significant negative effects on GDP per capita only for landlocked countries while orientation has no significant effects. Then I propose a new compactness measure by taking exogenous geographic features into account. The results show robust negative effects of this new measure on GDP per capita. Using it to instrument for domestic market potential, I find that GDP per capita is significantly correlated with the domestic market potential.

Chapter 3 analyzes the determinants of economic growth across the world at the 0.25◦ by 0.25◦ level. It considers three classes of nature-given determinants: agricultural productivity, trade connectivity, and amenities. All three are important determinants of economic growth, but trade connectivity is more important in low-income countries and amenities are less important in countries that experience high growth in the service sector. As countries become richer and more service-based, trade connectivity matters less and amenities matter more. To further assess the nature-given drivers of economic growth, we analyze what happens to locations that are hit by major floods. In recently settled areas, we find that locations do not recover, except when they have good amenities. This, again, suggests that amenities are becoming increasingly important in determining the spatial distribution of economic activity.

Degree Date

Spring 5-11-2024

Document Type


Degree Name





Klaus Desmet

Second Advisor

Omer Ozak

Third Advisor

James Lake



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Monday, May 03, 2027