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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
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:39413
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  1. Louis Putterman & David Weil, 2008. "Post-1500 Population Flows and the Long Run Determinants of Economic Growth and Inequity," Working Papers 2008-15, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  2. Raquel Fernandez & Alessandra Fogli, 2005. "Culture: An Empirical Investigation of Beliefs, Work, and Fertility," NBER Working Papers 11268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Abhijit Banerjee & Lakshmi Iyer, 2005. "History, Institutions, and Economic Performance: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1190-1213, September.
  5. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer & Vollrath, Dietrich, 2008. "Inequality in Land Ownership, the Emergence of Human Capital Promoting Institutions and the Great Divergence," CEPR Discussion Papers 6751, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. 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.
  7. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2006. "Das Human-Kapital: A Theory of the Demise of the Class Structure," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 85-117.
  8. Frank Kleibergen & Richard Paap, 2003. "Generalized Reduced Rank Tests using the Singular Value Decomposition," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 03-003/4, Tinbergen Institute.
  9. Nunn, Nathan, 2008. "The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," Scholarly Articles 3710252, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Easterly, William, 2007. "Inequality does cause underdevelopment: Insights from a new instrument," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 755-776, November.
  14. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2005. "Land Inequality and the Emergence of Human Capital Promoting Institutions," Development and Comp Systems 0502018, EconWPA.
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