Jean Lacroix gave a presentation on January 9, 2022 at ASSA Meetings 2022 – EHA Session : Political Economy, Online. He presented his paper “The origins of elite persistence: Evidence from political purges from World War II in France” (with Toke Aidt and Pierre-Guillaume Meon.)
This paper studies a new mechanism that allows political elites from a non-democratic regime to
survive a democratic transition: connections. We document this mechanism in the transition from the
Vichy regime back to democracy in post-World War II France. The parliamentarians who had supported
the Vichy regime were purged in a two-stage process whereby local courts, Comit ́es d ́epartementaux de
lib ́eration (CDLs) and a national court, the Jury d’Honneur, sequentially decided whether to uphold the
ban on participation in politics for each defendant. First, we show that the Jury was more likely than the
CDLs to clear defendants who were Law graduates, a powerful group in French politics at the time. The
difference in clearance rates between Law graduates and other defendants was 10 percentage points higher
in front of the Jury than in front of the CDLs. This Law graduate advantage was consequential and created
elite persistence, as it mainly appeared when defendants intended on continuing their political careers.
Second, a systematic analysis of the still-classified 17,589 documents contained in the Jury dossiers of
the defendants is consistent with the hypothesis that the connections of Law graduates to the Jury was
a major driver of their ability to avoid the purge. We consider and rule out alternative mechanisms.