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Long-Term Barriers to Economic Development

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  • Enrico Spolaore
  • Romain Wacziarg

Abstract

What obstacles prevent the most productive technologies from spreading to less developed economies from the world's technological frontier? In this paper, we seek to shed light on this question by quantifying the geographic and human barriers to the transmission of technologies. We argue that the intergenerational transmission of human traits, particularly culturally transmitted traits, has led to divergence between populations over the course of history. In turn, this divergence has introduced barriers to the diffusion of technologies across societies. We provide measures of historical and genealogical distances between populations, and document how such distances, relative to the world's technological frontier, act as barriers to the diffusion of development and of specific innovations. We provide an interpretation of these results in the context of an emerging literature seeking to understand variation in economic development as the result of factors rooted deep in history.

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  • Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2013. "Long-Term Barriers to Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 19361, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19361
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    2. Ani Harutyunyan & Omer Ozak, 2016. "Culture, diffusion, and economic development," Working Papers of LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance 551450, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB), LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance.
    3. Oded Galor & Omer Ozak & Assaf Sarid, 2016. "Origins and Consequences of Lanquage Structures," Working Papers 2016-7, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    4. Dombi, Akos & Grigoriadis, Theocharis, 2017. "Ancestry, Diversity & Finance: Evidence from Transition Economies," Discussion Papers 2017/4, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    5. Anastasia Litina, 2016. "Natural land productivity, cooperation and comparative development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 351-408, December.
    6. Assaf Sarid & Oded Galor, "undated". "Geographical Origins and Economic Consequences of Language Structures," Working Papers WP2017/4, University of Haifa, Department of Economics.
    7. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2022. "Fertility and Modernity [‘The consequences of radical reform: the French revolution’]," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 132(642), pages 796-833.
    8. Ertan, Arhan & Fiszbein, Martin & Putterman, Louis, 2016. "Who was colonized and when? A cross-country analysis of determinants," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 165-184.
    9. M. Del Gatto & C. Mastinu, 2015. "Geography, Cultural Remoteness and Economic Development: A Regional Analysis of the Economic Consequences of Insularity," Working Paper CRENoS 201503, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
    10. Oded Galor & Ömer Özak, 2016. "The Agricultural Origins of Time Preference," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 3064-3103, October.
    11. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2018. "Ancestry and development: New evidence," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 33(5), pages 748-762, August.
    12. Jürgen Janger & Agnes Kügler & Andreas Reinstaller & Fabian Unterlass, 2017. "Austria 2025 – Looking Out For the Frontier(s): Towards a New Framework For Frontier Measurement in Science, Technology and Innovation," WIFO Studies, WIFO, number 59289, February.
    13. Oded Galor & Ömer Özak & Assaf Sarid, 2018. "Geographical Origins of Language Structures," Departmental Working Papers 1801, Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics.
    14. P. Dorian Owen, 2017. "Evaluating Ingenious Instruments for Fundamental Determinants of Long-Run Economic Growth and Development," Econometrics, MDPI, vol. 5(3), pages 1-33, September.
    15. Ho, Chi Pui, 2016. "GeoPopulation-Institution Hypothesis: Reconciling American Development Process and Reversal of Fortune within a Unified Growth Framework," MPRA Paper 73863, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Natkhov, Timur & Vasilenok, Natalia, 2021. "Skilled immigrants and technology adoption: Evidence from the German settlements in the Russian empire," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 81(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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