Current projects

The life course of graduates: Assessing the economic effects of education in Scandinavia (with Kristin Ranestad, Paul Sharp, Christian Møller Dahl and Christian Emil Westermann)

  • Includes my dissertation project: Origins of the knowledge economy: Higher education and Scandinavia’s economic development

Harmonious relations: Quality transmission among composers in the very long run (with Karol Jan Borowiecki and Maria Marchenko)

Related content


Nicholas Ford, Kristin Ranestad and Paul Sharp (2022): ‘Leaving Their Mark: Using Danish Student Grade Lists to Construct a More Detailed Measure of Historical Human Capital‘, Italian Review of Economic History

We provide a brief overview of the educational history of Denmark and document archival and printed sources covering the development of primary, secondary, and tertiary education. In particular, we focus on student grade lists, which are available for individuals at all levels of education from the early nineteenth century until well into the twentieth century. We suggest that these can be used to construct more detailed measures of human capital than those usually employed, making it possible to deconstruct aggregate levels and types of education into e.g., science or humanities, as well as to measure the extent to which this was actually learned, as captured by the grades achieved. Given the role usually attributed to human capital for development, and perhaps particularly with regards to the Nordic countries, such data has the potential to greatly increase our understanding of how Denmark became the rich and successful country it is today.

Work in progress

Karol Jan Borowiecki, Nicholas Ford and Maria Marchenko: ‘Harmonious Relations: Quality transmission among composers in the very long run’ (working paper available as PDF)

Most creatives acquire professional talents by learning from others, but in most settings it is difficult to estimate the existence of long-term effects. This paper explores the transmission of skills over a period of more than seven centuries by focusing on the case of music composers. We ask the question: how does a composer’s quality influence the quality of the composers he or she teaches? Our analysis builds on a unique dataset of 17,433 composers from around the world since the fourteenth century. By comparing actual teacher–student pairs with plausible counterfactual pairs and by using a two-stage framework, we show a strong effect of quality transmission. Moreover, we find quality transmission persists across multiple generations: from teacher to student, and subsequently to student’s student and so on. Our results provide new insights on drivers of creativity over the very long term, as well as the influence of teachers on students’ achievements.

Nicholas Ford, Kristin Ranestad and Paul Sharp: ‘Lessons from Oslo: Examining social mobility after the establishment of Norway’s first university’ (preliminary work presented at the Scandinavian Society of Economic and Social History meeting, October 2022)