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Transportation Technology and Economic Change: The Impact of Colonial Railroads on City Growth in Africa

Author

Listed:
  • Remi Jedwab

    () (Department of Economics/Institute for International Economic Policy, George Washington University)

  • Alexander Moradi

    () (University of Sussex)

Abstract

What is the impact of modern transportation technology on economic change in poor countries? Rail construction in colonial Africa provides a natural experiment. Using new data on railroads and cities over one century within one country, Ghana, and Africa as a whole, we find large permanent effects of transportation technology on economic development. First, railroads had strong effects on agriculture and urbanization before independence. Second, using the fact that railroads collapsed post-independence, we show they had a persistent impact. Evidence suggests that railroad cities persisted because their emergence served as a mechanism to coordinate investments for each subsequent period. Historical shocks can thus trigger an equilibrium in which cities will emerge to facilitate the accumulation of factors, which promotes long-term development.

Suggested Citation

  • Remi Jedwab & Alexander Moradi, 2014. "Transportation Technology and Economic Change: The Impact of Colonial Railroads on City Growth in Africa," Working Papers 2014-03, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2014-03
    as

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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Huillery, Elise, 2014. "The Black Man's Burden: The Cost of Colonization of French West Africa," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(1), pages 1-38, March.
    2. Robin Burgess & Remi Jedwab & Edward Miguel & Ameet Morjaria & Gerard Padró i Miquel, 2015. "The Value of Democracy: Evidence from Road Building in Kenya," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(6), pages 1817-1851, June.
    3. repec:spo:wpmain:info:hdl:2441/7o52iohb7k6srk09na41pc24o is not listed on IDEAS
    4. J. Vernon Henderson & Adam Storeygard & David N. Weil, 2012. "Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 994-1028, April.
    5. repec:cep:stieop:45 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Junichi Yamasaki, 2017. "Railroads, Technology Adoption, and Modern Economic Development: Evidence from Japan," ISER Discussion Paper 1000, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    2. Redding, Stephen J. & Turner, Matthew A., 2015. "Transportation Costs and the Spatial Organization of Economic Activity," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: Gilles Duranton & J. V. Henderson & William C. Strange (ed.),Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 0, pages 1339-1398, Elsevier.
    3. Jean-François Maystadt & Gilles Duranton, 2019. "The development push of refugees: evidence from Tanzania," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 299-334.
    4. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Ross, Stephen L., 2015. "Change and Persistence in the Economic Status of Neighborhoods and Cities," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: Gilles Duranton & J. V. Henderson & William C. Strange (ed.),Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 0, pages 1047-1120, Elsevier.
    5. David Stifel & Bart Minten & Bethlehem Koru, 2016. "Economic Benefits of Rural Feeder Roads: Evidence from Ethiopia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 52(9), pages 1335-1356, September.
    6. Jean-Francois Maystadt & Gilles Duranton, 2014. "The development push of refugees," Working Papers 66910685, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    7. Volpe Martincus, Christian & Carballo, Jerónimo & Cusolito, Ana, 2017. "Roads, exports and employment: Evidence from a developing country," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 21-39.
    8. Federico Tadei, 2017. "Measuring Extractive Institutions: Colonial Trade and Price Gaps in French Africa," Working Papers 0109, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    9. Mikhailova, Tatiana (Михайлова, Татьяна), 2018. "Evacuation of Industry During the Great Patriotic War and the Growth of Russian Cities: Numerical Analysis [Эвакуация Промышленности В Годы Великой Отечественной Войны И Рост Городов России: Числен," Working Papers 031835, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Transportation Technology; Development; Path Dependence; Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R4 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics
    • N97 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Africa; Oceania

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