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Did History Breed Inequality? Colonial Factor Endowments and Modern Income Distribution

Author

Listed:
  • Matthew J. Baker

    () (Hunter College, City University of New York)

  • Christa N. Brunnschweiler

    () (CER-ETH Center of Economic Research at ETH Zurich, Switzerland)

  • Erwin H. Bulte

    () (Development Economics Group, Wageningen University and Department of Economics, Tilburg University)

Abstract

We explore the relation between historical population density in former colonies and modern income distribution. A theoretical model highlights the potentially opposing effects of native population density on incentives for colonists to conquer or settle in new territories. While an abundant supply of native labor is an “asset” that drives up land rents, it is also a “liability” that makes land acquisition by colonists more difficult and reduces returns to peacable migration. Conflicts over land, sowing the seeds for inequality by creating a landed élite living off rents, are especially likely to emerge for intermediate native population densities. Results are confirmed by detailed empirical tests highlighting the curvilinear relationship between native population density and modern income inequality. Finally, using population density as an instrument for inequality in the former colonies, we demonstrate that there is no causal relationship running from income distribution to economic growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew J. Baker & Christa N. Brunnschweiler & Erwin H. Bulte, 2008. "Did History Breed Inequality? Colonial Factor Endowments and Modern Income Distribution," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 08/86, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:eth:wpswif:08-86
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    13. repec:wbk:wbpubs:28198 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.
    2. Fenske, James, 2015. "African polygamy: Past and present," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 58-73.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    inequality; growth; factor endowments; population density; conflict; colonization;

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative

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