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The Influence of Ancestral Lifeways on Individual Economic Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa

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  • Stelios Michalopoulos
  • Louis Putterman
  • David N Weil

Abstract

Does a person's historical lineage influence his or her current economic status? Motivated by a large literature in the social sciences stressing the effect of an early transition to agriculture on current economic performance at the country level, we examine the relative contemporary status of individuals as a function of how much their ancestors relied on agriculture during the preindustrial era. We focus on Africa, where—by combining anthropological records of groups with individual-level survey data—we can explore the effect of the historical lifeways of one's forefathers. Within enumeration areas (typically a single village or group of villages in the countryside and a city block in urban areas) as well as occupational groups, we find that individuals from ethnicities that derived a larger share of subsistence from agriculture in the precolonial era are today more educated and wealthy. A tentative exploration of channels suggests that differences in attitudes and beliefs as well as differential treatment by others, including differential political power, may contribute to these divergent outcomes.

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  • Stelios Michalopoulos & Louis Putterman & David N Weil, 2019. "The Influence of Ancestral Lifeways on Individual Economic Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 1186-1231.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jeurec:v:17:y:2019:i:4:p:1186-1231.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/jeea/jvy029
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    Cited by:

    1. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2018. "Spatial Patterns of Development: A Meso Approach," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 10(1), pages 383-410, August.
    2. Aniema Atorudibo, 2021. "Marriage Norms and Fertility Outcomes in Developing Countries," Studies in Economics 2101, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    3. Vincent Leyaro & Pablo Selaya & Neda Trifkovi?, 2017. "Fishermen's wives: On the cultural origins of violence against women," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2017-205, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Abel Brodeur & Marie Christelle Mabeu & Roland Pongou, 2020. "Ancestral Norms, Legal Origins, and Female Empowerment," Working Papers 2002E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
    5. Pal, Sumantra, 2019. "Culture counters Male-Backlash: Causal evidence from India's Northeast," EconStor Preprints 201543, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    6. Lucia Corno & Nicole Hildebrandt & Alessandra Voena, 2020. "Age of Marriage, Weather Shocks, and the Direction of Marriage Payments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 88(3), pages 879-915, May.
    7. Zhang, Zhe & Zhang, Xu & Putterman, Louis, 2019. "Trust and cooperation at a confluence of worlds: An experiment in Xinjiang, China," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 128-144.
    8. Arthur Blouin & Julian Dyer, 2021. "How Cultures Converge: An Empirical Investigation of Trade and Linguistic Exchange," Working Papers tecipa-691, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    9. Philip Roessler & Yannick I. Pengl & Robert Marty & Kyle Sorlie Titlow & Nicolas van de Walle, 2020. "The Cash Crop Revolution, Colonialism and Legacies of Spatial Inequality: Evidence from Africa," CSAE Working Paper Series 2020-12, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    10. Jonathan F. Schulz, 2016. "The Churches’ Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-networks and Democracy," Discussion Papers 2016-16, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    11. Gershman, Boris, 2020. "Witchcraft beliefs as a cultural legacy of the Atlantic slave trade: Evidence from two continents," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 122(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • Z00 - Other Special Topics - - General - - - General
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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