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The Fetters of Inheritance? Equal Partition and Regional Economic Development


  • Thilo R. Huning

    (University of York)

  • Fabian Wahl

    (University of Hohenheim)


How can agricultural inheritance traditions affect structural change and economic development in rural areas? The most prominent historical traditions are primogeniture, where the oldest son inherits the whole farm, and equal partition, where land is split and each heir inherits an equal share. In this paper, we provide a theoretical model that links these inheritance traditions to the local allocation of labor and capital and to municipal development. First, we show that among contemporary municipalities in West Germany, equal partition is significantly related to measures of economic development. Second, we conduct OLS and fuzzy spatial RDD estimates for Baden-Württemberg in the 1950s and today. We find that inheritance rules caused, in line with our theoretical predictions, higher incomes, population densities, and industrialization levels in areas with equal partition. Results suggest that more than a third of the overall inter-regional difference in average per capita income in present-day Baden Württemberg, or 597 Euro, can be explained by equal partition.

Suggested Citation

  • Thilo R. Huning & Fabian Wahl, 2019. "The Fetters of Inheritance? Equal Partition and Regional Economic Development," Working Papers 0165, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  • Handle: RePEc:hes:wpaper:0165

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zareh Asatryan & Annika Havlik & Frank Streif, 2017. "Vetoing and inaugurating policy like others do: evidence on spatial interactions in voter initiatives," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 172(3), pages 525-544, September.
    2. Abel Schumann, 2014. "Persistence of Population Shocks: Evidence from the Occupation of West Germany after World War II," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 189-205, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fritsch, Michael & Obschonka, Martin & Wahl, Fabian & Wyrwich, Michael, 2020. "The deep imprint of Roman sandals: Evidence of long-lasting effects of Roman rule on personality, economic performance, and well-being in Germany," Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences 05-2020, University of Hohenheim, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences.
    2. David E. Bloom & Victoria Y. Fan & Vadim Kufenko & Osondu Ogbuoji & Klaus Prettner & Gavin Yamey, 2021. "Going beyond GDP with a parsimonious indicator: inequality-adjusted healthy lifetime income," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 19(1), pages 127-140.
    3. Huning, Thilo R. & Wahl, Fabian, 2021. "The origins of agricultural inheritance traditions," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 660-674.

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    More about this item


    Inheritance Rules; Sectoral Change; Regional Economic Development; Baden-Württemberg; Spatial Inequalities;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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