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The Effect of the TseTse Fly on African Development

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  • Marcella Alsan

Abstract

The TseTse fly is unique to Africa and transmits a parasite harmful to humans and lethal to livestock. This paper tests the hypothesis that the TseTse reduced the ability of Africans to generate an agricultural surplus historically. Ethnic groups inhabiting TseTse-suitable areas were less likely to use domesticated animals and the plow, less likely to be politically centralized, and had a lower population density. These correlations are not found in the tropics outside of Africa, where the fly does not exist. The evidence suggests current economic performance is affected by the TseTse through the channel of precolonial political centralization. (JEL I12, N57, O13, O17, Q12, Q16, Q18)

Suggested Citation

  • Marcella Alsan, 2015. "The Effect of the TseTse Fly on African Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(1), pages 382-410, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:105:y:2015:i:1:p:382-410
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20130604
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • N57 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets
    • Q16 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - R&D; Agricultural Technology; Biofuels; Agricultural Extension Services
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy

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