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The Colonial and Geographic Origins of Comparative Development

While the direct impact of geographic endowments on prosperity is present in all countries, in former colonies, geography has also affected colonization policies and, therefore, institutional outcomes. Using non-colonized countries as a control group, I develop an empirical strategy that disentangles the partial effects of institutions and of endowments on income. I find that institutions are the main determinant of development, but that endowments have a sizeable direct impact, as well. Last, I apply the empirical strategy to examine the theories put forward by La Porta et al. (1999) and by Acemoglu et al. (2001), finding support for both theories, but also evidence that the authors’ estimates are biased since they mix up the effect of the historical determinants of institutions with the sizeable direct impact of access to trade and of disease environment.

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Paper provided by Swiss National Bank, Study Center Gerzensee in its series Working Papers with number 09.03.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:szg:worpap:0903
Contact details of provider: Postal: Studienzentrum Gerzensee, Postfach 21, 3115 Gerzensee
Phone: ++41 (0)31 780 31 31
Fax: ++41 (0)31 780 31 00
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Order Information: Postal: Studienzentrum Gerzensee, Postfach 21, 3115 Gerzensee

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  1. James Feyrer & Bruce Sacerdote, 2006. "Colonialism and Modern Income -- Islands as Natural Experiments," NBER Working Papers 12546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Dani Rodrik & Arvind Subramanian & Francesco Trebbi, 2002. "Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions over Geography and Integration in Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 9305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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..
  4. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1995. "Institutions And Economic Performance: Cross-Country Tests Using Alternative Institutional Measures," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(3), pages 207-227, November.
  5. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, 09.
  6. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 2000. "International Data on Educational Attainment Updates and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
  8. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 2002. "Tropics, Germs, and Crops: How Endowments Influence Economic Development," Working Papers 15, Center for Global Development.
  9. Nicola Gennaioli & Ilia Rainer, 2007. "The modern impact of precolonial centralization in Africa," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 185-234, September.
  10. Djankov, Simeon & Glaeser, Edward & La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei, 2003. "The new comparative economics," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 595-619, December.
  11. Alberto Alesina & Arnaud Devleeschauwer & William Easterly & Sergio Kurlat & Romain Wacziarg, 2003. "Fractionalization," NBER Working Papers 9411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. David N. Weil, 2005. "Accounting for the Effect of Health on Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 11455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2012. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 20-36, February.
  14. David H. Romer & Jeffrey A. Frankel, 1999. "Does Trade Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 379-399, June.
  15. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:4:p:1231-1294 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2003. "Disease and Development in Historical Perspective," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 397-405, 04/05.
  17. David Y. Albouy, 2008. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Investigation of the Settler Mortality Data," NBER Working Papers 14130, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. David E. Bloom & Jeffrey D. Sachs, 1998. "Geography, Demography, and Economic Growth in Africa," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(2), pages 207-296.
  19. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:114:y:1999:i:1:p:83-116 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Dollar, David & Kraay, Aart, 2003. "Institutions, trade, and growth : revisiting the evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3004, The World Bank.
  21. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," NBER Working Papers 8460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. 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.
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