Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 B.C.?

66 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2008

See all articles by Diego A. Comin

Diego A. Comin

Harvard Business School - Business, Government and the International Economy Unit

William Easterly

New York University - Department of Economics

Erick Gong

Middlebury College

Date Written: September 30, 2008

Abstract

We assemble a dataset on technology adoption in 1000 BC, 0 AD, and 1500 AD for the predecessors to today's nation states. We find that this very old history of technology adoption is surprisingly significant for today's national development outcomes. Our strong and robust results are for 1500 AD determining per capita income today. We find technological persistence across long epochs: from 1000 BC to 0 AD, from 0 AD to 1500 AD, and from 1500 AD to the present. Although the data allow only some suggestive tests of rival hypotheses to explain long - run technological persistence, we find the evidence to be most consistent with a model of endogenous technology adoption where the cost of adopting new technologies declines sufficiently with the current level of adoption. The evidence is less consistent with a dominant role for population as predicted by the semi - endogenous growth models or for country - level factors like culture, genes or institutions.

Keywords: Technology adoption, technology history, economic development

JEL Classification: O3, N7

Suggested Citation

Comin, Diego A. and Easterly, William and Gong, Erick, Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 B.C.? (September 30, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1279468 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1279468

Diego A. Comin (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Business, Government and the International Economy Unit ( email )

Cambridge
United States

William Easterly

New York University - Department of Economics ( email )

269 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10003
United States

Erick Gong

Middlebury College ( email )

Middlebury, VT 05753
United States

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