‘Getting to Denmark’: the role of agricultural elites for development

Nina Boberg-Fazlić, Peter Sandholt Jensen, Markus Lampe, Paul Sharp, Christian Volmar Skovsgaard

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


We explore the role of elites for development and the spread of industrialized dairying in Denmark in the 1880s. We demonstrate that the location of early proto-modern dairies, introduced by landowning elites from northern Germany in the eighteenth century, explains the location of industrialized dairying in 1890: an increase of one standard deviation in elite influence increases industrialized dairying by 56 percent of the mean exposure in one specification. We interpret this as evidence for a spread of ideas from the elites to the peasantry, which we capture through measures of specialization in dairying and demand for education and identify a causal relationship using an instrument based on distance to the influential first mover. Finally, we demonstrate that areas with cooperatives enjoyed greater wealth by the twentieth century, and that they are today associated with other Danish cultural attributes: a belief in democracy and individualism.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages45
JournalJournal of Economic Growth
Early online date3 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Apr 2023


  • institutions
  • technology
  • elites
  • dairying
  • cooperatives
  • Denmark

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