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The role of lactase persistence in precolonial development

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  • C. Cook

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Abstract

This paper argues that a genetic adaptation to the Neolithic Revolution led to differential levels of development in the precolonial era. The ability to digest milk, or to be lactase persistent, is conferred by a gene variant that is unequally distributed across the Old World. Milk provided qualitative and quantitative advantages to the diet that led to differences in the carrying capacities of respective countries. It is shown through a number of specifications that country-level variation in the frequency of lactase persistence is positively and significantly related to population density in 1,500 CE; specifically, a one standard deviation increase in the frequency of lactase persistent individuals (roughly 24 percentage points) is associated with roughly a 40 % increase in precolonial population density. This relationship is robust to a large number of sample specifications and potentially omitted variables. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Suggested Citation

  • C. Cook, 2014. "The role of lactase persistence in precolonial development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(4), pages 369-406, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jecgro:v:19:y:2014:i:4:p:369-406
    DOI: 10.1007/s10887-014-9109-5
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10887-014-9109-5
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Sandholt Jensen & Markus Lampe & Paul Sharp & Christian Volmar Skovsgaard, 2018. "‘Getting to Denmark’: the Role of Elites for Development," Working Papers 0125, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:29:y:2018:i:c:p:168-178 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Quamrul H. Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2018. "The Macrogenoeconomics of Comparative Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 56(3), pages 1119-1155, September.
    4. Daniel Oto-Peralías & Diego Romero-Ávila, 2016. "The economic consequences of the Spanish Reconquest: the long-term effects of Medieval conquest and colonization," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 409-464, December.
    5. Baten, Jörg & de Pleijt, Alexandra, 2018. "Female autonomy generates superstars in long-term development: Evidence from 15th to 19th century Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 13348, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Andrey Shcherbak, 2015. "Does Milk Matter? Genetic Adaptation to Environment: The Effect of Lactase Persistence on Cultural Change," HSE Working papers WP BRP 64/SOC/2015, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    7. Andrey Shcherbak, 2016. "A Recipe for Democracy? The Spread of the European Diet And Political Change," HSE Working papers WP BRP 70/SOC/2016, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    8. Erkan Goeren, 2017. "The Role of Novelty-Seeking Traits in Contemporary Knowledge Creation," Working Papers V-402-17, University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2017.
    9. Gören, Erkan, 2017. "The persistent effects of novelty-seeking traits on comparative economic development," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 112-126.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Historical development; Genetic diversity; Neolithic Revolution; Population density; O13; N5; Z13;

    JEL classification:

    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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