Women, Rails and Telegraphs: An Empirical Study of Information Diffusion and Collective Action

67 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2018

See all articles by Camilo Garcia-Jimeno

Camilo Garcia-Jimeno

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics

Angel Diaz

University of Pennsylvania

Pinar Yildirim

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Date Written: April 2018

Abstract

How do social interactions shape collective action, and how are they mediated by the availability of networked information technologies? To answer these questions, we study the Temperance Crusade, one of the earliest instances of organized political mobilization by women in the U.S. This wave of protest activity against liquor dealers spread between the winter of 1873 and the summer of 1874, covering more than 800 towns in 29 states. We first provide causal evidence of social interactions driving the diffusion of the protest wave, and estimate the roles played by information traveling along railroad and telegraph networks. We do this by relying on exogenous variation in the rail network links generated by railroad worker strikes and railroad accidents. We also develop an event-study methodology to estimate the complementarity between rail and telegraph networks in driving the spread of the Crusade. We find that railroad and telegraph-mediated information about neighboring protest activity were main drivers of the diffusion of the protest movement. We also find strong complementarities between both networks. Using variation in the types of protest activities of neighboring towns and in the aggregate patterns of the diffusion process, we also find suggestive evidence of social learning as a key mechanism behind the effect of information on protest adoption.

Suggested Citation

Garcia-Jimeno, Camilo and Diaz, Angel and Yildirim, Pinar, Women, Rails and Telegraphs: An Empirical Study of Information Diffusion and Collective Action (April 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24495, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3158935

Camilo Garcia-Jimeno (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics ( email )

Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science
133 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6297
United States

Angel Diaz

University of Pennsylvania

Pinar Yildirim

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

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