A Muckraking Challenge

In the last post, I celebrated the noble pursuit of empirical muckraking. Now I have a muckraking challenge for the empirical researchers of the world.

The Deep History of Energy and Institution Size

Over the last 5 years, I have pieced together an interesting relation between energy and institution size. As energy use per capita increases, institutions get larger. The results are in this blog post, and in this paper (with some updates in this preprint).

Here is my challenge to empirical muckrakers. Can we piece together the deep history of this relation?

I’ve managed to find about a century of data in the United States. I then used World Bank data to look at international trends. The problem with the World Bank data is that it only goes back to 1960 (at best).

I want to piece together a deeper history of energy and institution size. This will require the unglamorous work of finding data on a country by country basis. We obviously need energy use data, but my experience is that this is the easiest to get. It is harder to get institution size data. In the past, I’ve used the following data:

  • self-employment rates
  • average firm size
  • large-firm employment share
  • government employment share

Do you have an idea for another indicator of institution size? If so, let me know.


If you find interesting data, there are three possibilities. First, you can just publish it on your own. But please let me know what you find. Second, you can send me your results and I’ll post them on this blog — giving you due credit, of course. If we get enough data we can publish something more formal. Ultimately I’d like to create a database on the deep history of energy and institution size.

If you are interested in this challenge and want to discuss it, please contact me!

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