Geography, demography, and early development
This paper explores the role of geography in economic development and demographic transition. It presents a growth model where survival is endogenously determined and where the odds of survival and the returns to labor are higher in geographically favorable regions. Higher life expectancy prompts parents to devote more of their resources to old-age consumption and enjoyment. Consequently, the invest relatively more in the quantity and quality of their offspring. Investment in education, together with population growth eventually triggers technological progress. As the level of technology improves and life expectancy rises along with it, a geographically advantageous economy first enters a post-Malthusian regime during which both fertility and educational attainment increase. Then, as further improvements in technology lead to a higher education premium, such an economy undergoes a demographic transition during which life expectancy continues to rise and parents have fewer but more educated children. In regions where geography is more adverse, this transition does not take place and economies remain trapped in the Malthusian regime. Thus, accounting for the role of geography in development helps to link demographic transition to geography and shows that the latter affects the economy mostly indirectly through the impact of geography on households' demographic choices. In the early stages of development, those choices in turn determine whether economies attain the scale and scope necessary for sustained economic progress. The paper also provides a framework with which to asses why geography may matter less today.
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Volume (Year): 18 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2 (06)
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