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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 Weil

Abstract

We explore the role of an individual's historical lienage in determining economic status, holding constant his or her current location. This is complementary to the more common approachto studying how history shapes economic outcomes across locations. Motivated by a large literature in social sciences stressing the beneficial influence of agricultural transition on contemporary economic perfromance at the level of countries, we examine the relative status of descendants of agriculturalists vs. pastoralists. We match individual-level survey data with information on the historical lifeways of ancestors, focusing in Africa, where the transition away from such modes of production began only recently. Within enumeration areas and occupational groups, we find that individuals from ethnicities that derived a larger share of subsistence from agriculture in the pre-colonial 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 less political power, may contribute to these divergent outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Stelios Michalopoulos & Louis Putterman & David Weil, 2016. "The Influence of Ancestral Lifeways on Individual Economic Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa," Working Papers 2016-1, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2016-1
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    Cited by:

    1. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2017. "Spatial Patterns of Development: A Meso Approach," NBER Working Papers 24088, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Lucia Corno & Nicole Hildebrandt & Alessandra Voena, 2017. "Age of Marriage, Weather Shocks, and the Direction of Marriage Payments," Working Papers 2017-055, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    3. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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