The Myth of the Frontier
In: Understanding Long-Run Economic Growth: Geography, Institutions, and the Knowledge Economy
One of the most salient explanations for the distinctive path of economic and political development of the United States is captured by the 'Frontier (or Turner) thesis'. Turner argued that it was the presence of the open frontier which explained why the United States became democratic and, at least implicitly, prosperous. In this paper we provide a simple test of this idea. We begin with the contradictory observation that almost every Latin American country had a frontier in the 19th century as well. We show that while the data does not support the Frontier thesis, it is consistent with a more complex 'conditional Frontier thesis.' In this view, the effect of the frontier is conditional on the way that the frontier was allocated and this in turn depends on political institutions at the time of frontier expansion. We show that for countries with the worst political institutions, there is a negative correlation between the historical extent of the frontier and contemporary income per-capita. For countries with better political institutions this correlation is positive. Though the effect of the frontier on democracy is positive irrespective of initial political institutions, it is larger the better were these institutions. In essence, Turner saw the frontier as having positive effects on development because he already lived in a country with good institutions.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)
|This chapter was published in: ||This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number
11995.||Handle:|| RePEc:nbr:nberch:11995||Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Acemoglu, Daron & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James A & Yared, Pierre, 2005.
"Income and Democracy,"
CEPR Discussion Papers
5273, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Mehlum, Halvor & Moene, Karl-Ove & Torvik, Ragnar, 2003.
"Institutions and the resource curse,"
29/2002, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
- Halvor Mehlum & Karl Moene & Ragnar Torvik, 2002. "Institutions and the resource curse," GE, Growth, Math methods 0210004, EconWPA.
- Halvor Mehlum & Karl Moene & Ragnar Torvik, 2002. "Institutions and the resource curse," Development and Comp Systems 0210003, EconWPA.
- Halvor Mehlum & Karl Moene & Ragnar Torvik, 2004. "Institutions and the Resource Curse," DEGIT Conference Papers c009_012, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
- Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000.
"The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation,"
NBER Working Papers
7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11995. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.