Sebastian Ellingsen

I am a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in economics at the University of Bristol.

I was a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth from 2021-2022 after completing a Ph.D in economics at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. You can find my CV here.

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My research lies primarily in trade, growth, and political economy. In my research, I often combine reduced-form and structural approaches with spatial data.

Working Papers

  • Long-Distance Trade and Long-Term Persistence.
    Revise and Resubmit, American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics.
    Do changes in the location of trading opportunities lead to changes in the location of economic activity? This paper explores this question using a staggered lifting of restrictions on direct trade with Europe across the Spanish Empire in the 18th century. I combine a difference-in-differences approach with a dynamic spatial equilibrium framework and detailed georeferenced data on maritime travel from historical logbooks to examine this issue. I find that the reform improved market integration and induced urban growth, but had a smaller effect in locations with larger internal markets. Moreover, I show that modern-day settlement patterns depend less on the pre-reform settlement pattern in areas affected by the reform. Taken together, these findings provide evidence that the location of economic activity adapts to changes in the location of trading opportunities, but can persist when these changes are preceded by urban growth.

  • Does High-speed Internet Erode Voter Turnout? Evidence from a Large-Scale Norwegian Broadband Reform,
    with Øyvind Skorge, Øystein Hernæs.
    To what extent the surge of high-speed internet has contributed to democratic erosion is contested. One the one hand, it may crowd out voters’ consumption of traditional media with higher and more unbiased knowledge about politics, which is expected to lessen turnout and polarize those who nonetheless vote. On the other hand, it may add to individuals’ existing news consumption and increase political knowledge, which is expected to increase turnout and leave polarization unaffected. To evaluate these competing hypotheses, we exploit a large-scale broadband reform that was rolled out in a staggered fashion across Norwegian municipalities during the 2000-2008 period. Our instrumental variable analysis reveals a positive effect of high-speed internet usage on the turnout rate in municipal elections and a small (and insignificant) negative effect on polarization in vote choice. We also show that the arrival of high-speed internet increased time online without replacing the consumption of newspapers, radio, and TV. Our analysis suggests that high-speed internet have more nuanced effects on electoral participation than what is commonly asserted.


  • The Impact of Commercial Television on Turnout and Public Policy: Evidence from Norwegian Local Politics, Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 159, March 2018, Pages 1-15,
    with Øystein Hernæs,
    Media coverage: The New York Times - The Upshot
    We investigate the impact of commercial television on political participation and local policy outcomes. Exploiting a geographically staggered expansion of cable television after the liberalization of Norwegian broadcasting in 1981, we show that higher cable television penetration significantly reduced turnout in municipal elections. Using individual-level data, we find that cable television coverage had a negative effect on the extent to which respondents were exposed to political information through mass media. The effect is more pronounced for individuals that on average watch more cable television; namely individuals with fewer years of schooling. Consistent with an increased difference in political participation and exposure to information between more and less educated groups, we find that commercial television led to reduced public spending and increased the share spent on education. The results are evidence that commercial mass media can influence electoral politics by reducing political participation and exposure to information of its target audiences.

Work in Progress

  • Transportation through the Eons, with Costas Arkolakis and Jack Liang.
  • Spatial Inequality, Regional Growth, and Economic Geography, with Helen Simpson and Jenny Chan, in preparation for the Oxford Handbook of Income Distribution and Economic Growth.
  • Transportation Networks and Structural Transformation in Regions, with Jenny Chan.


I teach econometrics at the University of Bristol.