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Growth under Extractive Institutions? Latin American Per Capita GDP in Colonial Times


  • Abad, Leticia Arroyo
  • van Zanden, Jan Luiten


This paper presents new estimations of per capita GDP in colonial times for the two pillars of the Spanish empire: Mexico and Peru. We find dynamic economies as evidenced by increasing real wages, urbanization, and silver mining. Their growth trajectory is such that both regions reduced the gap with respect to Spain and even achieved parity. While experiencing swings in growth, the notable turning point is in 1780 as bottlenecks in production and later the independence wars reduced economic activity. To explain the long periods of growth between 1550 and 1780 we argue that these countries witnessed endogenous adaptations in institutions resulting in increased market orientation towards and a more balanced distribution of power between Spain and local elites. Our results question the notion that colonial institutions impoverished Latin America.
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  • Abad, Leticia Arroyo & van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2016. "Growth under Extractive Institutions? Latin American Per Capita GDP in Colonial Times," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 76(04), pages 1182-1215, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:76:y:2016:i:04:p:1182-1215_00

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    1. repec:spr:cliomt:v:11:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11698-016-0154-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:29:y:2018:i:c:p:168-178 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Inklaar, Robert & de Jong, Harmen & Bolt, Jutta & van Zanden, Jan, 2018. "Rebasing 'Maddison': new income comparisons and the shape of long-run economic development," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-174, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
    4. Jean-Paul Faguet & Camilo Matajira & Fabio Sánchez, 2017. "Is Extraction Bad? Encomienda and Development in Colombia since 1560," Documentos CEDE 015668, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    5. Nikolaj Malinowski & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2015. "National income and its distribution in preindustrial Poland in a global perspective," Working Papers 0076, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

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