Economics serving society
Marlon Seror

Marlon Seror

Ph. D. – postdoc

University of Bristol, Bristol, U.K

Department of Economics – Priory Road Complex Priory Road Bristol, BS8 1QU

  • Trade/Migration and development
  • History of Development
  • Regional and Urban Economics

Marlon Seror is available for positions

Marlon Seror is attending the EEA and/or ASSA Meetings

Thesis Supervisor: GUBERT Flore

Academic year of registration: 2013/2014

Thesis title: Three Essays on the Economics of Migration

Year of thesis defense: 2017/2018

Date of thesis defense: 4 December 2017


Job Market Paper


Industrial clusters in the long run: Evidence from Million-Rouble plants in China (Latest Version), joint with S. Heblich (Toronto), H. Xu (CCB) and Y. Zylberberg (Bristol).


We identify the negative spillovers exerted by large, successful factories on other local production units in China. A short-lived cooperation program between the U.S.S.R. and China led to the construction of 156 "Million-Rouble plants" in the 1950s. The identifi cation exploits the ephemeral geopolitical context and exogenous variation in location decisions due to the relative position of allied and enemy airbases. We fi nd a rise-and-fall pattern in counties hosting a factory and show that a double curse explains their long-run decline. First, the analysis of production and technological linkages reveals a large cluster of non-productive establishments along the production chain of the Million-Rouble plants, which limits technological spillovers across industries and innovation. Second, we combine population census and survey data and provide evidence that industrial concentration reduces the local supply of entrepreneurs.


Presented at the 2019 Conference on Urban and Regional Economics (CURE).


Ongoing Research
  • Random river: Trade and rent extraction in imperial China (Latest Version).

    This paper exploits exogenous changes in the course of the Yellow River in China to isolate variation in the natural distribution of economic centers across space. I compute time-varying trade costs and collect original data on population and taxation from dynastic histories and local gazetteers spanning 2,000 years. This allows me to assess the effect of exogenous variation in market access on population density and resource extraction. I find that the changes in connectedness have two opposite effects. First, they induce a very large increase in the level and concentration of economic activity in the shorter run. Second, they trigger a large increase in rent capture by local elites, which severely mitigates the concentration effect in the longer run.

    Presented at the 2019 India-China Conference, Warwick.

  • Migrants and Firms: Evidence from China (R&R, American Economic Review; Latest Version, Working Paper), joint with C. Imbert (Warwick), Y. Zhang (CUHK) and Y. Zylberberg (Bristol).

    This paper provides causal evidence on the effect of rural-urban migration on urban production patterns. We use longitudinal data on Chinese manufacturing firms between 2001 and 2006, and exploit exogenous variation in rural-urban migration due to agricultural price shocks for identification. We find that following a migrant inflow, labor productivity decreases sharply and remains low in the longer run; firms adopt labor-intensive products and innovate less. Within industry and location, low-productivity firms expand the most, so that aggregate labor productivity falls even faster. We quantify the contribution of migration on productivity within a location and its dispersion across urban destinations.

    Presented at: Harvard Cities and Development Workshop (2019), NBER Summer Institute (2019), Yale Agri-Devo Conference (2017), Harvard China Economy Seminar (2016).

  • Cultural Persistence through Revolutions (Preliminary draft available upon request), joint with A. Alesina (Harvard), D. Yang (Harvard), Y. You (Harvard) and W. Zeng (Xi'an Jiaotong).

    We investigate the interaction between cultural transmission and social mobility in the context of two major and back-to-back revolutions in China - the Communist Revolution in the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. These two revolutions aimed to eradicate inequality in wealth and education, to shut off intergenerational transmission, and to eliminate cultural differences in the population. Using newly digitized archival data and linked contemporary household surveys and census, we show that the revolutions were effective in homogenizing the population economically and culturally in the short run. However, the pattern of inequality that characterized the pre-revolution generation re-emerges today. Grandchildren of the pre-revolution elites earn 25 percent more than those from non-elite households. In addition, the grandchildren of pre-revolution elites differ in their cultural values: they are less averse to inequality, more individualistic, more pro-market, more pro-education, and more likely to see effort as critical to success. Through intergenerational transmission, socioeconomic conditions and cultural traits thus survived one of the most aggressive attempts to eliminate differences in the population and to foster mobility.

  • Migrants' Beliefs and Investment (Working Paper).

    Migration increases sending households' capacity to invest but introduces additional information asymmetry between household members. In this paper, I establish a new stylized fact: Migrants systematically overestimate assets that they typically invest in and that are held by their households. This is shown using novel data with matched reports from Senegalese migrants and their own households of origin. I find empirical support for a self-selection mechanism: migrants are more likely to sort into investment, the more optimistic they are about their households' trustworthiness, and reject alternative interpretations based on behavioral biases. I finally assess the extent of missing investments: Selection out of investment is large and severely reduces the developmental impact of migration.

    An earlier version was awarded the Grand Prix (first prize) of the International Competition of Master's Degree Theses in Economics and Finance and presented at the AEA Meetings in 2015.