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Development, Structure, and Transformation: Some Evidence on Comparative Economic Growth

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  • Gordon C. McCord
  • Jeffrey D. Sachs

Abstract

We suggest that the geographical patterns of income differences across the world have deep underpinnings. We emphasize that economic development is a complex process driven by economic, political, social, and biophysical forces. Some economists have argued that the patterns reflect mainly the historical footprint of colonial rule and political evolution, and that geography's effects on development occurred exclusively through its effects on this historical institutional development. We believe that economic development has also been shaped very importantly by the biophysical and geophysical characteristics of economies. Per capita incomes differ around the world in no small part because of sharp differences across regions in the natural resource base and physical geography (e.g. distance to coast), and by the amplification of those differences through the dynamics of saving and investment. We posit that the drivers of economic development include institutions, technology, and geography, and that none of these alone is sufficient to account for the diverse patterns of global growth. We survey the relevant literature, and empirically show that a multi-causal framework helps to explain when countries achieve middle income; the distribution of economic activity around the world today; the patterns of growth between 1960 and 2010; the patterns of income per person within large economies; and the structural characteristics of the remaining countries still stuck in poverty today.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon C. McCord & Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2013. "Development, Structure, and Transformation: Some Evidence on Comparative Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 19512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19512
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dani Rodrik & Arvind Subramanian & Francesco Trebbi, 2004. "Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions Over Geography and Integration in Economic Development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 131-165, June.
    2. Kai Carstensen & Erich Gundlach, 2006. "The Primacy of Institutions Reconsidered: Direct Income Effects of Malaria Prevalence," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 20(3), pages 309-339.
    3. David Y. Albouy, 2012. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 3059-3076, October.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    5. Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 2003. "Tropics, germs, and crops: how endowments influence economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 3-39, January.
    6. Patzek, Tadeusz W. & Croft, Gregory D., 2010. "A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 3109-3122.
    7. Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2003. "Institutions Don't Rule: Direct Effects of Geography on Per Capita Income," NBER Working Papers 9490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Robert J. Barro, 2012. "Convergence and Modernization Revisited," NBER Working Papers 18295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 2016. "The European origins of economic development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 225-257, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elizabeth Gooch & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Bauyrzhan Yedgenov, 2016. "A Superior Instrument for the Role of Institutional Quality on Economic Development," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper1610, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    2. Ketels Christian, 2017. "Working Paper 258 - Structural Transformation: A competitiveness-based view," Working Paper Series 2369, African Development Bank.
    3. Papanek, Gábor & Némethné Pál, Katalin, 2013. "Daron Acemoglu-James A. Robinson: Miért buknak el nemzetek? A hatalom, a jólét és a szegénység eredete. HVG könyvek, HVG Kiadói Rt., Budapest, 2013, 520 oldal
      [Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson: Wh
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(11), pages 1278-1281.
    4. Peter Lloyd & Cassey Lee, 2016. "A Review of the Recent Literature on the Institutional Economics Analysis of the Long-Run Performance of Nations," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 2019, The University of Melbourne.
    5. Kevin Williams, 2015. "Foreign direct investment in Latin America and the Caribbean: an empirical analysis," Latin American Journal of Economics-formerly Cuadernos de Economía, Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 52(1), pages 57-77, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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