Human Genetic Diversity and Comparative Economic Development

55 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2008 Last revised: 5 May 2008

See all articles by Quamrul H. Ashraf

Quamrul H. Ashraf

Williams College - Department of Economics

Oded Galor

Brown University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Date Written: April 30, 2008


This research contributes to the understanding of human genetic diversity within a society as a significant determinant of its economic development. The hypothesis advanced and empirically examined in this paper suggests that there are socioeconomic trade-offs associated with genetic diversity within a given society. The investigation exploits an exogenous source of cross-country variation in genetic diversity by appealing to the "out of Africa" hypothesis of human origins to empirically establish a highly statistically significant and robust non-monotonic effect of genetic diversity on development outcomes in the pre-colonial era. Contrary to theories that reject a possible role for human genetics in influencing economic development, this study demonstrates the economic significance of diversity in genetic traits, while abstaining entirely from conceptual frameworks that posit a hierarchy of such traits in terms of their conduciveness to the process of economic development.

Keywords: Human genetic diversity, Comparative development, Population density, Neolithic Revolution, Land productivity, Malthusian stagnation

JEL Classification: N10, N30, N50, O10, O50, Z10

Suggested Citation

Ashraf, Quamrul H. and Galor, Oded, Human Genetic Diversity and Comparative Economic Development (April 30, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Quamrul H. Ashraf

Williams College - Department of Economics ( email )

24 Hopkins Hall Drive
Williamstown, MA 01267
United States
(413) 597-2476 (Phone)
(413) 597-4045 (Fax)


Oded Galor (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

Providence, RI 02912
United States


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom


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