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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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    File URL: http://irs.ub.rug.nl/ppn/296975648
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
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    3. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer & Vollrath, Dietrich, 2003. "Land Inequality and the Origin of Divergence and Overtaking in the Growth Process: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 3817, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    5. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
    6. Deininger, Klaus & Olinto, Pedro, 2000. "Asset distribution, inequality, and growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2375, The World Bank.
    7. Birdsall, Nancy & Londono, Juan Luis, 1997. "Asset Inequality Matters: An Assessment of the World Bank's Approach to Poverty Reduction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 32-37, May.
    8. Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 2003. "Tropics, germs, and crops: how endowments influence economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 3-39, January.
    9. Barro, Robert J, 2000. "Inequality and Growth in a Panel of Countries," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-32, March.
    10. Stanley L. Engerman & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 2005. "Colonialism, Inequality, and Long-Run Paths of Development," NBER Working Papers 11057, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. John W. McArthur & Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2001. "Institutions and Geography: Comment on Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson (2000)," NBER Working Papers 8114, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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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. Vollrath, Dietrich, 2008. "Wealth Distribution and the Provision of Public Goods: Evidence from the United States," MPRA Paper 11534, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. 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).
    4. repec:taf:jdevst:v:53:y:2017:i:12:p:2029-2049 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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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