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The European origins of economic development

  • Easterly, William
  • Levine, Ross

A large literature suggests that European settlement outside of Europe shaped institutional, educational, technological, cultural, and economic outcomes. This literature has had a serious gap: no direct measure of colonial European settlement. In this paper, we (1) construct a new database on the European share of the population during the early stages of colonization and (2) examine its impact on the level of economic development today. We find a remarkably strong impact of colonial European settlement on development. According to one illustrative exercise, 47 percent of average global development levels today are attributable to Europeans. One of our most surprising findings is the positive effect of even a small minority European population during the colonial period on per capita income today, contradicting traditional and recent views. There is some evidence for an institutional channel, but our findings are most consistent with human capital playing a central role in the way that colonial European settlement affects development today.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 39413.

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Date of creation: Jun 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:39413
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  1. Nunn, Nathan, 2008. "The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," Scholarly Articles 3710252, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2009. "Inequality in Landownership, the Emergence of Human-Capital Promoting Institutions, and the Great Divergence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 143-179.
  3. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," NBER Working Papers 10568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2004. "Das Human Kapital: A Theory of the Demise of the Class Structure," GE, Growth, Math methods 0410003, EconWPA.
  7. Hibbs Jr., Douglas A. & Olsson, Ola, 2003. "Geography, Biogeography and Why Some Countries are Rich and Others Poor," Working Papers in Economics 105, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 15 Jan 2004.
  8. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  9. Frank Kleibergen & Richard Paap, 2003. "Generalized Reduced Rank Tests using the Singular Value Decomposition," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 03-003/4, Tinbergen Institute.
  10. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2005. "Land Inequality and the Emergence of Human Capital Promoting Institutions," Development and Comp Systems 0502018, EconWPA.
  11. repec:oup:qjecon:v:125:y:2010:i:4:p:1627-1682 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Abhijit Banerjee & Lakshmi Iyer, 2010. "History Institutions and Economic Performance: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India," Working Papers id:2811, eSocialSciences.
  13. repec:oup:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:139-176 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Easterly, William, 2007. "Inequality does cause underdevelopment: Insights from a new instrument," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 755-776, November.
  15. Guido Tabellini, 2008. "Presidential Address Institutions and Culture," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 255-294, 04-05.
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