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The Influence of Ancestral Lifeways on Individual Economic Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa

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  • Michalopoulos, Stelios
  • Putterman, Louis
  • Weil, David

Abstract

Does a person's historical lineage influence his or her current economic status? Motivated by a large literature in social sciences stressing the effect of an early transition to agriculture on current economic performance at the level of countries, we examine the relative contemporary status of individuals as a function of how much their ancestors relied on agriculture during the pre-industrial era. We focus on Africa, where by combining anthropological records of groups with individual-level survey data we can explore the effect of the historical lifeways of one's forefathers. 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 differential political power, may contribute to these divergent outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Michalopoulos, Stelios & Putterman, Louis & Weil, David, 2016. "The Influence of Ancestral Lifeways on Individual Economic Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa," CEPR Discussion Papers 11366, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11366
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Michalopoulos, Stelios & Papaioannou, Elias, 2017. "Spatial Patterns of Development: A Meso Approach," Working Papers 4, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute.
    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

    Keywords

    Africa; agriculture; Culture; Development; Ethnicity;

    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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