Matti Mitrunen on famine, inequality, and conflict

WIDER Seminar Series

Matti Mitrunen presents at the WIDER Seminar Series on 2 March.


This paper employs newly-collected historical data from Finland to present evidence of historically contingent, long-run consequences of a famine. We document that the country had extreme levels of inequality in terms of income and land distribution until a violent uprising in 1918. The high inequality partly originated from the famine of 1866-1868 which increased the concentration of land and power to large landowners. We further show that regions with more exposure to the famine had worse labor market outcomes and more coercion by the early 1900s. Using unique micro-data on all the casualties of the Finnish Civil War, we demonstrate that the famine contributed to insurgency participation through these factors. Although unsuccessful in replacing the government, the insurgency led to significant policy changes, including radical land redistribution and a full extension of the franchise. This national reforms led to more drastic shift towards equality in locations more affected by the famine with greater pre-conflict inequality. Our findings highlight long-lasting but not straightforward impacts of historical shocks.

About the speaker

Matti Mitrunen is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Helsinki. He works on topics related to economic development, economic history, and political economy. Matti received his PhD from IIES Stockholm University and was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy.

WIDER Seminar Series

The WIDER Seminar Series showcases the latest research on key topics in development economics. It provides a forum for senior and early-career researchers, both inhouse and external, to present recent and ongoing work related to UNU-WIDER’s current work programme.

In addition to providing a forum for both academic debate and training, the series presents an opportunity for policy makers and others interested in development to learn about the latest research methods and findings.

In spring 2021, the Seminar Series events take place on Wednesdays. All those interested are invited to register and attend via Zoom.