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Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 B.C.?

Author

Listed:
  • Diego A. Comin

    () (Harvard Business School, Business, Government and the International Economy Unit)

  • William Easterly

    () (Leonard N. Stern School of Business - Department of Economics)

  • Erick Gong

    () (University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics)

Abstract

We assemble a dataset on technology adoption in 1000 BC, 0 AD, and 1500 AD for the predecessors to today's nation states. We find that this very old history of technology adoption is surprisingly significant for today's national development outcomes. Our strong and robust results are for 1500 AD determining per capita income today. We find technological persistence across long epochs: from 1000 BC to 0 AD, from 0 AD to 1500 AD, and from 1500 AD to the present. Although the data allow only some suggestive tests of rival hypotheses to explain long?run technological persistence, we find the evidence to be most consistent with a model of endogenous technology adoption where the cost of adopting new technologies declines sufficiently with the current level of adoption. The evidence is less consistent with a dominant role for population as predicted by the semi?endogenous growth models or for country-level factors like culture, genes or institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Diego A. Comin & William Easterly & Erick Gong, 2008. "Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 B.C.?," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-052, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:09-052
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Technology adoption; technology history; economic development.;

    JEL classification:

    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • N7 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services

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