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Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa

  • Nathan Nunn

    (Harvard University, NBER, and BREAD)

  • Diego Puga

    (IMDEA Social Sciences Institute and CEPR)

We show that geography, through its impact on history, can have important effects on economic development today. The analysis focuses on the historic interaction between ruggedness and Africa's slave trades. Although rugged terrain hinders trade and most productive activities, negatively affecting income globally, rugged terrain within Africa afforded protection to those being raided during the slave trades. Since the slave trades retarded subsequent economic development, ruggedness within Africa has also had a historic indirect positive effect on income. Studying all countries worldwide, we estimate the differential effect of ruggedness on income for Africa. We show that the differential effect of ruggedness is statistically significant and economically meaningful, it is found in Africa only, it cannot be explained by other factors like Africa's unique geographic environment, and it is fully accounted for by the history of the slave trades. © 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Review of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 94 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 20-36

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:94:y:2012:i:1:p:20-36
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