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A Western Reversal Since the Neolithic? The Long-Run Impact of Early Agriculture

Author

Listed:
  • Olsson, Ola

    (University of Gothenburg)

  • Paik, Christopher

    (NYU Abu Dhabi)

Abstract

While it is widely believed that regions which experienced a transition to Neolithic agriculture early also become institutionally and economically more advanced, many indicators suggest that within the Western agricultural core (including Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia), communities that adopted agriculture early in fact have weaker institutions and poorly functioning economies today. In the current paper, we attempt to integrate both of these trends in a coherent historical framework. Our main argument is that countries that made the transition early also tended to develop autocratic societies with social inequality and pervasive rent seeking, whereas later adopters were more likely to have egalitarian societies with stronger private property rights. These different institutional trajectories implied a gradual shift of dominance from the early civilizations towards regions in the periphery. We document this relative reversal within the Western core by showing a robust negative correlation between years since transition to agriculture and contemporary levels of income and institutional development, on both the national and the regional level. Our results further indicate that the reversal had become manifest already before the era of European colonization.

Suggested Citation

  • Olsson, Ola & Paik, Christopher, 2013. "A Western Reversal Since the Neolithic? The Long-Run Impact of Early Agriculture," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 139, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:139
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    Cited by:

    1. Olsson, Ola & Paik, Christopher, 2016. "Long-run cultural divergence: Evidence from the Neolithic Revolution," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 197-213.
    2. Anastasia Litina, 2016. "Natural land productivity, cooperation and comparative development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 351-408, December.
    3. Daniel Oto-Peralías & Diego Romero-Ávila, 2016. "The economic consequences of the Spanish Reconquest: the long-term effects of Medieval conquest and colonization," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 409-464, December.
    4. Oded Galor & Ömer Özak, 2016. "The Agricultural Origins of Time Preference," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 3064-3103.
    5. James B. Ang, 2015. "Agricultural Transition And The Adoption Of Primitive Technology," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(4), pages 1818-1838, October.
    6. Quamrul Ashraf & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2015. "Climatic Fluctuations and the Diffusion of Agriculture," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(3), pages 589-609, July.
    7. Oana Borcan & Ola Olsson & Louis Putterman, 2014. "State History and Economic Development: Evidence from Six Millennia," Working Papers 2014-8, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    8. repec:oup:jeurec:v:15:y:2017:i:1:p:1-53. is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Matranga, Andrea, 2017. "The Ant and the Grasshopper: Seasonality and the Invention of Agriculture," MPRA Paper 76626, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Jeanet Sinding Bentzen & Nicolai Kaarsen & Asger Moll Wingender, 2017. "Irrigation and Autocracy," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, pages 1-53.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Neolithic agriculture; comparative development;

    JEL classification:

    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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