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The Persistence of Underdevelopment: Institutions, Human Capital or Constituencies

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  • Rajan, Raghuram G
  • Zingales, Luigi

Abstract

Why is underdevelopment so persistent? One explanation is that poor countries do not have institutions that can support growth. Because institutions (both good and bad) are persistent, underdevelopment is persistent. An alternative view is that underdevelopment comes from poor education. Neither explanation is fully satisfactory, the first because it does not explain why poor economic institutions persist even in fairly democratic but poor societies, and the second because it does not explain why poor education is so persistent. This paper tries to reconcile these two views by arguing that the underlying cause of underdevelopment is the initial distribution of factor endowments. Under certain circumstances, this leads to self-interested constituencies that, in equilibrium, perpetuate the status quo. In other words, poor education policy might well be the proximate cause of underdevelopment, but the deeper (and more long lasting cause) are the initial conditions (like the initial distribution of education) that determine political constituencies, their power, and their incentives. Though the initial conditions may well be a legacy of the colonial past, and may well create a perverse political equilibrium of stagnation, persistence does not require the presence of coercive political institutions. We present some suggestive empirical evidence. On the one hand, such an analysis offers hope that the destiny of societies is not preordained by the institutions they inherited through historical accident. On the other hand, it suggests we need to understand better how to alter factor endowments when societies may not have the internal will to do so.

Suggested Citation

  • Rajan, Raghuram G & Zingales, Luigi, 2006. "The Persistence of Underdevelopment: Institutions, Human Capital or Constituencies," CEPR Discussion Papers 5867, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5867
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    Cited by:

    1. Easterly, William, 2007. "Inequality does cause underdevelopment: Insights from a new instrument," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 755-776, November.
    2. Davide Infante & Janna Smirnova, 2010. "Market Failures within Poor Institutions: The Effects of Bureaucrats’ Rent-seeking Activity," Chapters,in: Institutional and Social Dynamics of Growth and Distribution, chapter 5 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Lisa Grazzini, 2009. "Istruzione, Crescita e Democrazia: le Teorie della Complessa Relazione," Working Papers - Economics wp2009_01.rdf, Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Dipartimento di Scienze per l'Economia e l'Impresa.
    4. repec:agh:journl:v:18:y:2017:i:2:p:133-145 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Alberto Chong & Mark Gradstein, 2006. "Redistributional Preferences and Imposed Institutions," Research Department Publications 4482, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    6. Pal, Sarmistha & Ghosh, Sugata, 2008. "The Elite and the Marginalised: An Analysis of Public Spending on Mass Education in the Indian States," IZA Discussion Papers 3707, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Gradstein, Mark, 2007. "Institutional Traps and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 6414, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Luca, Davide, 2016. "Votes and Regional Economic Growth: Evidence from Turkey," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 477-495.
    9. UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, "undated". "Introduction, Motivation and Overview," UNDP Africa Policy Notes 2017-02, United Nations Development Programme, Regional Bureau for Africa.
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    11. Singh, Nirvikar, 2015. "Breaking the Mold: Thoughts on Punjab’s Future Economic Development," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt14t55658, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    12. Bartak Jakub & Jabłoński Łukasz, 2016. "Human Capital Versus Income Variations: Are They Linked in OECD Countries?," Journal of Management and Business Administration. Central Europe, De Gruyter Open, vol. 24(2), pages 56-73, June.
    13. Berg, Andrew & Ostry, Jonathan D. & Zettelmeyer, Jeromin, 2012. "What makes growth sustained?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 149-166.
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    16. Castelló-Climent, Amparo, 2008. "On the distribution of education and democracy," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 179-190, October.
    17. Breuer, Janice Boucher & McDermott, John, 2012. "Culture, caution, and trust," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 15-23.
    18. Besley, Timothy J. & Ghatak, Maitreesh, 2009. "The de Soto Effect," CEPR Discussion Papers 7259, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    19. Francisco J. Beltran Tapia & Julio Martinez-Galarrage, 2015. "Inequality and poverty in a developing economy: Evidence from regional data (Spain, 1860-1930)," Working Papers 0078, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    20. Gradstein, M., 2007. "Institutional Traps and Economic Growth," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0769, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    21. João Paulo Martin Faleiros & Denisard Cnéio de Oliveira Alves, 2008. "Modelo de Crescimento Baseado nas Exportações: Evidências empíricas para Chile, Brasil e México, em uma perspectiva Não Linear," Anais do XXXVI Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 36th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 200807170923500, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].

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    Keywords

    human capital; institutions;

    JEL classification:

    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General

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