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Pre‐Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development

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  • Stelios Michalopoulos
  • Elias Papaioannou

Abstract

We investigate the role of deeply-rooted pre-colonial ethnic institutions in shaping comparative regional development within African countries. We combine information on the spatial distribution of ethnicities before colonization with regional variation in contemporary economic performance, as proxied by satellite images of light density at night. We document a strong association between pre-colonial ethnic political centralization and regional development. This pattern is not driven by differences in local geographic features or by other observable ethnic-specific cultural and economic variables. The strong positive association between pre-colonial political complexity and contemporary development also holds within pairs of adjacent ethnic homelands with different legacies of pre-colonial political institutions.
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Suggested Citation

  • Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2013. "Pre‐Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(1), pages 113-152, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:81:y:2013:i:1:p:113-152
    DOI: ECTA9613
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N17 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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