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Institutions, Human Capital and Development

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Francisco Gallego
  • James A. Robinson

In this paper we revisit the relationship between institutions, human capital and development. We argue that empirical models that treat institutions and human capital as exogenous are misspecified both because of the usual omitted variable bias problems and because of differential measurement error in these variables, and that this misspecification is at the root of the very large returns of human capital, about 4 to 5 times greater than that implied by micro (Mincerian) estimates, found in some of the previous literature. Using cross-country and cross-regional regressions, we show that when we focus on historically-determined differences in human capital and control for the effect of institutions, the impact of institutions on long-run development is robust, while the estimates of the effect of human capital are much diminished and become consistent with micro estimates. Using historical and cross-country regression evidence, we also show that there is no support for the view that differences in the human capital endowments of early European colonists have been a major factor in the subsequent institutional development of these polities.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19933.

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Date of creation: Feb 2014
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Daron Acemoglu & Francisco A. Gallego & James A. Robinson, 2014. "Institutions, Human Capital, and Development ," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 875-912, 08.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19933
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  1. Antonio Ciccone & Giovanni Peri, 2006. "Identifying Human-Capital Externalities: Theory with Applications," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(2), pages 381-412.
  2. Davidson, Russell & MacKinnon, James G., 1993. "Estimation and Inference in Econometrics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195060119.
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  4. Moretti, Enrico, 2004. "Estimating the social return to higher education: evidence from longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 175-212.
  5. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2012. "Pre-colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development," NBER Working Papers 18224, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. Nicola Gennaioli & Rafael Laporta & Florencio López-de-Silanes & Andrei Schleifer, 2011. "Human Capital and Regional Development," Working Papers 581, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  8. Gregory Clark, 2005. "The Condition of the Working-Class in England, 1209-2004," Working Papers 539, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  9. Francisco Gallego, 2008. "Historical Origins of Schooling: The Role of Democracy and Political Decentralization," Documentos de Trabajo 342, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
  10. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
  11. Naritomi, Joana & Soares, Rodrigo R. & Assunção, Juliano J., 2012. "Institutional Development and Colonial Heritage within Brazil," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(02), pages 393-422, June.
  12. Acemoglu, Daron & García-Jimeno, Camilo & Robinson, James A., 2012. "Finding Eldorado: Slavery and long-run development in Colombia," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 534-564.
  13. Daron Acemoglu & Suresh Naidu & Pascual Restrepo & James A. Robinson, 2014. "Democracy Does Cause Growth," NBER Working Papers 20004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Francisco Gallego & Miriam Bruhn, 2009. "Good, Bad and Ugly Colonial Activities: Do They Matter for Economic Development?," Working Papers ClioLab 6, EH Clio Lab. Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
  15. Francisco Gallego & Robert Woodberry, 2008. "Christian Missionaries and Education in Former Colonies: How Institutions Mattered," Documentos de Trabajo 339, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
  16. Daron Acemoglu, 2005. "Politics and Economics in Weak and Strong States," NBER Working Papers 11275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Ewout Frankema, 2011. "The Origins of Formal Education in sub-Saharan Africa - Was British Rule More Benign?," Working Papers 0005, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  18. 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, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294, November.
  19. Francisco Gallego & Robert Woodberry, 2009. "Christian Missionaries and Education in Former African Colonies: How Competition Mattered," Working Papers ClioLab 2, EH Clio Lab. Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
  20. Nathan Nunn, 2010. "Religious Conversion in Colonial Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 147-52, May.
  21. Stanley L. Engerman & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 2011. "Economic Development in the Americas since 1500: Endowments and Institutions," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number enge11-1, December.
  22. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker Than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116, February.
  23. Willa Friedman & Michael Kremer & Edward Miguel & Rebecca Thornton, 2011. "Education as Liberation?," NBER Working Papers 16939, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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