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On the human capital of Inca Indios before and after the Spanish Conquest. Was there a “Pre-Colonial Legacy”?


  • Juif, Dácil-Tania
  • Baten, Joerg


Not only the colonial period, but also the pre-colonial times might have influenced later development patterns. In this study we assess a potential “pre-colonial legacy” hypothesis for the case of the Andean region. In order to analyze the hypothesis, we study the human capital of Inca Indios, using age-heaping-based techniques to estimate basic numeracy skills. We find that Peruvian Inca Indios had only around half the numeracy level of the Spanish invaders. The hypothesis holds even after adjusting for a number of potential biases. In addition, we find evidence on inequality in pre-Columbian times. Given the low educational level and the high inequality reigning before the Spanish Conquest in the Andean region, we argue that more attention should be paid to the pre-colonial legacies when assessing the genesis of the long-term path of only modest economic growth in the countries of Latin America.

Suggested Citation

  • Juif, Dácil-Tania & Baten, Joerg, 2013. "On the human capital of Inca Indios before and after the Spanish Conquest. Was there a “Pre-Colonial Legacy”?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 227-241.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:50:y:2013:i:2:p:227-241 DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2012.12.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Raouf Boucekkine & David de la Croix & Dominique Peeters, 2007. "Early Literacy Achievements, Population Density, and the Transition to Modern Growth," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(1), pages 183-226, March.
    2. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    3. Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 2003. "Tropics, germs, and crops: how endowments influence economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 3-39, January.
    4. Melissa Dell, 2010. "The Persistent Effects of Peru's Mining Mita," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(6), pages 1863-1903, November.
    5. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro, 2000. "International Comparisons of Real Product, 1820-1990: An Alternative Data Set," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 1-41, January.
    6. Baten, Joerg & Mumme, Christina, 2010. "Globalization and educational inequality during the 18th to 20th centuries: Latin America in global comparison," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(02), pages 279-305, September.
    7. Baten, Joerg & Ma, Debin & Morgan, Stephen & Wang, Qing, 2010. "Evolution of living standards and human capital in China in the 18-20th centuries: Evidences from real wages, age-heaping, and anthropometrics," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 347-359, July.
    8. Becker, Sascha O. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2010. "The effect of Protestantism on education before the industrialization: Evidence from 1816 Prussia," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 224-228, May.
    9. A'Hearn, Brian & Baten, Jörg & Crayen, Dorothee, 2009. "Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 783-808, September.
    10. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    11. 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, vol. 28(02), pages 253-277, September.
    12. Jörg Baten & Dorothee Crayen, 2008. "Global Trends in Numeracy 1820-1949 and its Implications for Long-Run Growth," CESifo Working Paper Series 2218, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2009. "Five Centuries of Latin American Inequality," NBER Working Papers 15305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Baten, Jörg & Cappelli, Gabriele, 2016. "The Evolution of Human Capital in Africa, 1730 -1970: A Colonial Legacy?," CEPR Discussion Papers 11273, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Blum, Matthias & Krauss, Karl-Peter, 2017. "Age heaping and numeracy: Looking behind the curtain," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-05, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    3. Blum, Matthias & Colvin, Christopher L. & McAtackney, Laura & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2015. "Quantifying human capital accumulation in rural Ireland in the nineteenth century," QUCEH Working Paper Series 15-09, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    4. Stolz, Yvonne & Baten, Jörg & Botelho, Tarcísio, 2011. "Growth effects of 19th century mass migrations: "Fome Zero" for Brazil," University of Tuebingen Working Papers in Economics and Finance 20, University of Tuebingen, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences.
    5. Ralph Hippe, 2014. "Human Capital in European Regions since the French Revolution," Working Papers 04-14, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).

    More about this item


    Human capital; Age-heaping; Inca Empire; Peru; Inequality; Growth;

    JEL classification:

    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N36 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration


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