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Did History Breed Inequality? Colonial Factor Endowments and Modern Income Distribution

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Author Info

  • Matthew J. Baker

    ()
    (Hunter College, City University of New York)

  • Christa N. Brunnschweiler

    ()
    (CER-ETH Center of Economic Research at ETH Zurich, Switzerland)

  • Erwin H. Bulte

    ()
    (Development Economics Group, Wageningen University and Department of Economics, Tilburg University)

Abstract

We explore the relation between historical population density in former colonies and modern income distribution. A theoretical model highlights the potentially opposing effects of native population density on incentives for colonists to conquer or settle in new territories. While an abundant supply of native labor is an “asset” that drives up land rents, it is also a “liability” that makes land acquisition by colonists more difficult and reduces returns to peacable migration. Conflicts over land, sowing the seeds for inequality by creating a landed élite living off rents, are especially likely to emerge for intermediate native population densities. Results are confirmed by detailed empirical tests highlighting the curvilinear relationship between native population density and modern income inequality. Finally, using population density as an instrument for inequality in the former colonies, we demonstrate that there is no causal relationship running from income distribution to economic growth.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich in its series CER-ETH Economics working paper series with number 08/86.

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Length: 65 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eth:wpswif:08-86

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Keywords: inequality; growth; factor endowments; population density; conflict; colonization;

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References

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  1. Stanley L. Engerman & Kenneth Lee Sokoloff, 2002. "Factor Endowments, Inequality, and Paths of Development among New World Economies," JOURNAL OF LACEA ECONOMIA, LACEA - LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION.
  2. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
  3. Bourguignon, Francois & Verdier, Thierry, 2000. "Oligarchy, democracy, inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 285-313, August.
  4. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 2002. "Tropics, Germs, and Crops: How Endowments Influence Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 9106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal Of Fortune: Geography And Institutions In The Making Of The Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294, November.
  6. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, World Bank Group, vol. 10(3), pages 565-91, September.
  8. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
  9. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1991. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 3668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. Bourguignon, F. & Morrisson, C., 1995. "Inequality and Development: The Role of Dualism," DELTA Working Papers, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure) 95-32, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  12. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, 09.
  13. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2006. "De Facto Political Power and Institutional Persistence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 325-330, May.
  14. Kenneth L. Sokoloff & Stanley L. Engerman, 2000. "Institutions, Factor Endowments, and Paths of Development in the New World," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 217-232, Summer.
  15. Easterly, William, 2007. "Inequality does cause underdevelopment: Insights from a new instrument," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 755-776, November.
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Cited by:
  1. James Fenske, 2012. "African Polygamy: Past and Present," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/2012-20, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  2. Dobado González, Rafael & García Montero, Héctor, 2010. "Colonial Origins of Inequality in Hispanic America? Some Reflections Based on New Empirical Evidence," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(02), pages 253-277, September.

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