IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Pre-colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development

  • Stelios Michalopoulos
  • Elias Papaioannou

We investigate the role of deeply-rooted pre-colonial ethnic institutions in shaping comparative regional development within African countries. We combine information on the spatial distribution of ethnicities before colonization with regional variation in contemporary economic performance, as proxied by satellite images of light density at night. We document a strong association between pre-colonial ethnic political centralization and regional development. This pattern is not driven by differences in local geographic features or by other observable ethnic-specific cultural and economic variables. The strong positive association between pre-colonial political complexity and contemporary development obtains also within pairs of adjacent ethnic homelands with different legacies of pre-colonial political institutions.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18224.

in new window

Date of creation: Jul 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2013. "Pre‐Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(1), pages 113-152, 01.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18224
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Lakshmi Iyer, 2005. "Direct versus Indirect Colonial Rule in India: Long-term Consequences," Harvard Business School Working Papers 05-041, Harvard Business School, revised Nov 2008.
  2. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2009. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," NBER Working Papers 14918, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Fenske, James, 2010. "Does land abundance explain African institutions?," MPRA Paper 23222, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2005. "Unbundling Institutions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 949-995, October.
  5. Rachel Glennerster & Edward Miguel & Alexander Rothenberg, 2010. "Collective Action in Diverse Sierra Leone Communities," NBER Working Papers 16196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. A. Colin Cameron & Jonah B. Gelbach & Douglas L. Miller, 2006. "Robust Inference with Multi-way Clustering," NBER Technical Working Papers 0327, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Nunn, Nathan & Wantchekon, Leonard, 2011. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," Scholarly Articles 11986331, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Abhijit Banerjee & Lakshmi Iyer, 2010. "History Institutions and Economic Performance: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India," Working Papers id:2811, eSocialSciences.
  9. Bockstette, Valerie & Chanda, Areendam & Putterman, Louis, 2002. " States and Markets: The Advantage of an Early Start," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 7(4), pages 347-69, December.
  10. Doll, Christopher N.H. & Muller, Jan-Peter & Morley, Jeremy G., 2006. "Mapping regional economic activity from night-time light satellite imagery," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 75-92, April.
  11. Elise Huillery, 2009. "History Matters: The Long Term Impact of Colonial Public Investments in French West Africa," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/10262, Sciences Po.
  12. James Fenske, 2009. "Does Land Abundance Explain African Institutions?," Working Papers 981, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  13. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
  14. Markus Goldstein & Christopher Udry, 2008. "The Profits of Power: Land Rights and Agricultural Investment in Ghana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 981-1022, December.
  15. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/10262 is not listed on IDEAS
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18224. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.