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Geography, institutions, and the making of comparative development

  • Raphael A. Auer

    ()

While the direct impact of geographic endowments on prosperity is present in all countries, in former colonies, geography has also affected colonization policies and, therefore, institutional outcomes. Using non-colonized countries as a control group, I re-examine the theories put forward by La Porta et al. (J Law Econ Org 15(1):222–279, 1999 and Acemoglu et al. (Am Econ Rev 91(5), 1369–1401, 2001 . I find strong support for both theories, but also evidence that the authors’ estimates of the impact of colonization on institutions and growth are biased, since they confound the effect of the historical determinants of institutions with the direct impact of geographic endowments on development. In a baseline estimation, I find that the approach of Acemoglu et al. ( 2001 ) overestimates the importance of institutions for economic growth by 28 %, as a country’s natural disease environment affected settler mortality during colonization and also has a direct impact on prosperity. The approach of La Porta et al. ( 1999 ) underestimates the importance of colonization-imposed legal origin for institutional development by 63 %, as Britain tended to colonize countries that are remote from Europe and thus suffer from low access to international markets. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Economic Growth.

Volume (Year): 18 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Pages: 179-215

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jecgro:v:18:y:2013:i:2:p:179-215
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