James Fenske

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The medical community has long recognized that humans exhale volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Several studies have quantified emissions of VOCs from human breath, with values ranging widely due to variation between and within individuals. The authors have measured human breath concentrations of isoprene and pentane. The major VOCs in the breath of healthy(More)
There are large differences in economic development across Native American reservations today. This paper asks whether these differences can be in part explained by the forced integration of historically autonomous sub-tribal bands in the 19th century. To measure forced integration, I combine anthropological data on intra-tribal political integration in(More)
JOB MARKET PAPER Abstract Africa has recently experienced dramatic urban growth. I argue that standard theories of structural transformation cannot account for this result, as it was not driven by a green revolution or an industrial revolution but by natural resource exports. I develop a new structural transformation model in which the Engel curve implies(More)
While bans against child labor are a ubiquitous policy tool, there is very little empirical evidence on their effectiveness. In this paper, we examine the consequences of India’s landmark legislation against child labor, the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986. Using data from employment surveys conducted before and after the ban, and using(More)
We exploit the construction and eventual demise of the colonial railroads in Ghana, and most of Africa, to study the impact of transportation investments in poor countries. Using new data on railroads and cities spanning over one century, we find that (i) railroads had large effects on the distribution and aggregate level of economic activity during the(More)
We propose that the development of social hierarchy following the Neolithic Revolution was due to the ability of the emergent elite to appropriate crops from farmers and not a result of increased productivity, as conventional theory has it. We argue that since cereals are easier to appropriate than roots and tubers, regional variations in the suitability of(More)
An extensive literature uses anthropometric measures, typically heights, to draw inferences about living standards in the past. This literature's influence reaches beyond economic history; the results of historical heights research appear as crucial components in development economics and related fields. The historical heights literature often relies on(More)
The dynamic decision-making of agents cannot be understood without determining how they learn about the underlying uncertainty and ambiguity in their environment. I use long-term panel data to estimate how farmers learn about the optimal planting time (which could potentially be changing over time) using monsoon onset signals. I find that farmers exhibit(More)