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Determinants and Economic Consequences of Colonization: A Global Analysis

Research on economic growth suggests that the era of colonization has had an impact on the levels of economic development of countries around the globe. However, why some countries were colonized early, some late, and others not at all, and what effect these differences have had on current income, has not been studied systematically. In the first part of this paper, we show that both the occurrence and the timing of colonization can be explained by (a) differences in levels of pre-1500 development, (b) proximity to the colonizing powers, (c) disease environment, and (d) latitude. In the second part, we analyze the developmental consequences of colonization while taking the endogeneity of colonization’s occurrence and timing into account. Whereas naïve estimates can suggest large impacts, we find that neither the fact nor the timing of colonization affect income today once colonization’s impact on the composition of the population and the quality of institutions is controlled for.

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Paper provided by Brown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2012-5.

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Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2012-5
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912

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  1. Graziella Bertocchi & Fabio Canova, 1996. "Did colonization matter for growth? An empirical exploration into the historical causes of Africa's underdevelopment," Economics Working Papers 202, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  2. Olsson, Ola, 2009. "On the democratic legacy of colonialism," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 534-551, December.
  3. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2011. "The 'Out of Africa' Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 8500, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2008. "Human Genetic Diversity and Comparative Economic Development," 2008 Meeting Papers 617, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Diego Comin & William Easterly & Erick Gong, 2010. "Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 BC?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 65-97, July.
  6. Abhijit Banerjee & Lakshmi Iyer, 2005. "History, Institutions, and Economic Performance: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1190-1213, September.
  7. Clingingsmith, David & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 2008. "Deindustrialization in 18th and 19th century India: Mughal decline, climate shocks and British industrial ascent," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 209-234, July.
  8. Raphael A. Auer, 2013. "Geography, institutions, and the making of comparative development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 179-215, June.
  9. Gregory N. Price, 2003. "Economic Growth in a Cross-section of Nonindustrial Countries: Does Colonial Heritage Matter for Africa?," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(3), pages 478-495, 08.
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