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The Colonial Origins of Inequality: Exploring the Causes and Consequences of Land Distribution

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  • Frankema, Ewout

    (Groningen University)

Abstract

The colonial heritage of high land inequality in Latin American countries is still, after nearly two centuries of independence, one of the crucial underpinnings of its persistent high levels of income inequality. This paper assesses the colonial strategy of land redistribution in a global comparative perspective using new and existing land inequality figures in an OLS regression framework. The two central questions addressed are 1) what explains the cross-country variation in land inequality at the end of the colonial age? 2) how does initial land inequality relate to current income inequality? The main conclusions of the paper are that geography and factor endowments play a less decisive role than often argued in literature. And second, controlling for regional fixed effects, initial land inequality explains a substantial part of the present cross-country variation in current income inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Frankema, Ewout, 2006. "The Colonial Origins of Inequality: Exploring the Causes and Consequences of Land Distribution," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-81, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
  • Handle: RePEc:gro:rugggd:gd-81
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    Cited by:

    1. Graziella Bertocchi, 2011. "The Vanishing Bequest Tax: The Comparative Evolution Of Bequest Taxation In Historical Perspective," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(1), pages 107-131, March.
    2. Graziella Bertocchi & Chiara Strozzi, 2008. "International migration and the role of institutions," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 137(1), pages 81-102, October.
    3. repec:ilo:ilowps:462962 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Elise Huillery, 2011. "The Impact of European Settlement within French West Africa: Did Pre-colonial Prosperous Areas Fall Behind?," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 20(2), pages 263-311, March.
    5. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4316 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Vollrath, Dietrich, 2008. "Wealth Distribution and the Provision of Public Goods: Evidence from the United States," MPRA Paper 11534, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Ece Guleryuz, 2016. "Determinants of the Contemporary Inequality among MENA and African Countries: What are in the variation of Land and Natural Resource ownership?," EcoMod2016 9317, EcoMod.
    8. Pellicer, Miquel, 2009. "Inequality persistence through vertical vs. horizontal coalitions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 258-266, November.
    9. Bertocchi, Graziella & Strozzi, Chiara, 2006. "The Age of Mass Migration: Economic and Institutional Determinants," IZA Discussion Papers 2499, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, "undated". "Inequality Levels, Trends and Determinants in sub-Saharan Africa: An overview of main changes since the early 1990s," UNDP Africa Policy Notes 2017-03, United Nations Development Programme, Regional Bureau for Africa.
    11. Naritomi, Joana & Soares, Rodrigo R. & Assunção, Juliano J., 2012. "Institutional Development and Colonial Heritage within Brazil," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(02), pages 393-422, June.
    12. Nathan Nunn, 2009. "The Importance of History for Economic Development," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 65-92, May.
    13. Caselli, Mauro, 2013. "Credit constraints, inequality and the growth gains from trade," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(1), pages 43-47.
    14. Roe, Mark J. & Siegel, Jordan I., 2011. "Political instability: Effects on financial development, roots in the severity of economic inequality," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 279-309, September.
    15. Mauro Caselli, 2012. "Does wealth inequality reduce the gains from trade?," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), pages 333-356.
    16. Joana Naritomi & Rodrigo R. Soares & Juliano J. Assunção, 2007. "Rent Seeking and the Unveiling of 'De Facto' Institutions: Development and Colonial Heritage within Brazil," NBER Working Papers 13545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Miguel Laborda Pemn, 2011. ""Hombres que entre las raíces": Plantation colonies, slave rebellions and land redistribution in Saint Domingue and Cuba at the late colonial period, c. 1750 c. 1860," Documentos de Trabajo de la Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria 1102, Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria.
    18. repec:ucm:wpaper:14-09 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Simplice Asongu, 2015. "Rational Asymmetric Development, Piketty and the Spirit of Poverty in Africa," Working Papers 15/006, African Governance and Development Institute..
    20. Rafael Dobado González & Hector García, 2009. "Neither so low nor so short! Wages and heights in eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries colonial Hispanic America," Working Papers del Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales 0914, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales.
    21. Mauro Caselli, 2012. "Does wealth inequality reduce the gains from trade?," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 148(2), pages 333-356, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems

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