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Good, bad, and ugly colonial activities : studying development across the Americas

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  • Bruhn, Miriam
  • Gallego, Francisco A.

Abstract

Levels of economic development vary widely within countries in the Americas. This paper argues that part of this variation has its roots in the colonial era. Colonizers engaged in different economic activities in different regions of a country, depending on local conditions. Some activities were"bad"in the sense that they depended heavily on the exploitation of labor and created extractive institutions, while"good"activities created inclusive institutions. The authors show that areas with bad colonial activities have lower gross domestic product per capita today than areas with good colonial activities. Areas with high pre-colonial population density also do worse today. In particular, the positive effect of"good"activities goes away in areas with high pre-colonial population density. The analysis attributes this to the"ugly"fact that colonizers used the pre-colonial population as an exploitable resource. The intermediating factor between history and current development appears to be institutional differences across regions and not income inequality or the current ethnic composition of the population.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4641.

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Date of creation: 01 Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4641

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Keywords: Population Policies; Economic Theory&Research; Demographics; Country Population Profiles;

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  7. Easterly, William, 2000. "the middle class consensus and economic development," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2346, The World Bank.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. William F. Maloney & Felipe Valencia Caicedo, 2012. "The Persistence of (Subnational) Fortune: Geography, Agglomeration, and Institutions in the New World," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 010017, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
  2. Naritomi, Joana & Soares, Rodrigo R. & Assunção, Juliano J., 2012. "Institutional Development and Colonial Heritage within Brazil," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(02), pages 393-422, June.
  3. Vollrath, Dietrich, 2008. "Wealth Distribution and the Provision of Public Goods: Evidence from the United States," MPRA Paper 11534, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Francisco Gallego, 2008. "Historical Origins of Schooling: The Role of Democracy and Political Decentralization," Working Papers ClioLab 7, EH Clio Lab. Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
  5. Joana Naritomi & Rodrigo R. Soares & Juliano J. Assunção, 2007. "Rent Seeking and the Unveiling of 'De Facto' Institutions: Development and Colonial Heritage within Brazil," NBER Working Papers 13545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. André Martínez-Fritscher & Aldo Musacchio & Martina Viarengo, 2010. "The Great Leap Forward: The Political Economy Of Education In Brazil, 1889-1930," Working Papers 03-2010, Universidade de São Paulo, Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade de Ribeirão Preto.
  7. Dobado González, Rafael / R & García Montero, Héctor / H, 2010. "Colonial Origins of Inequality in Hispanic America? Some reflections based on new empirical evidence," MPRA Paper 28738, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Denis Cogneau & Léa Rouanet, 2009. "Living Conditions in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Western Africa 1925-1985: What Do Survey Data on Height Stature Tell Us?," Working Papers DT/2009/12, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).

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