Why Certain Countries Have Developed and Others Have Not?

6 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2011

See all articles by Alberto F. Alesina

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 2010


The fundamental question for economists is to understand why certain countries, (nations, regions) have developed successfully while others are lagging behind. Answering this question will of course help in understanding how to defeat poverty. In recent years economists have made progress by extending the realm of variables included in their models, empirical analysis and overall thinking. Examples include political economics (bordering with political science), behavioral economics (bordering with psychology), law and economics (bordering with law of course) and recently, cultural economics (bordering with sociology and anthropology). A new but rapidly growing body of research is taking, instead, the idea of including culture defined as the customary beliefs, social norms, and material traits of a nation, racial, religious or social group. Examples of cultural values which are very important for understanding economic development include trust and social capital; the structure and organization of the family; the role of women in the family and in society; and religious beliefs, amongst others. The question is how culture affects various aspects of economic behavior and how culture evolves. Does culture easily melt, or are cultural traits very persistent? What has led historically to the development of certain cultural traits?

Suggested Citation

Alesina, Alberto F., Why Certain Countries Have Developed and Others Have Not? (September 2010). American Economic Association, Ten Years and Beyond: Economists Answer NSF's Call for Long-Term Research Agendas. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1888513 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1888513

Alberto F. Alesina (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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