How Deep are the Roots of Economic Development?

66 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2012

See all articles by Enrico Spolaore

Enrico Spolaore

Tufts University - Department of Economics

Romain T. Wacziarg

UCLA Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: May 31, 2012

Abstract

The empirical literature on economic growth and development has moved from the study of proximate determinants to the analysis of ever deeper, more fundamental factors, rooted in long-term history. A growing body of new empirical work focuses on the measurement and estimation of the effects of historical variables on contemporary income by explicitly taking into account the ancestral composition of current populations. The evidence suggests that economic development is affected by traits that have been transmitted across generations over the very long run. This article surveys this new literature and provides a framework to discuss different channels through which intergenerationally transmitted characteristics may impact economic development, biologically (via genetic or epigenetic transmission) and culturally (via behavioral or symbolic transmission). An important issue is whether historically transmitted traits have affected development through their direct impact on productivity, or have operated indirectly as barriers to the diffusion of productivity-enhancing innovations across populations.

Keywords: economic growth, persistence, diffusion, intergenerational transmission, cultural transmission

JEL Classification: O490

Suggested Citation

Spolaore, Enrico and Wacziarg, Romain T., How Deep are the Roots of Economic Development? (May 31, 2012). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 3837. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2084104

Enrico Spolaore (Contact Author)

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

Romain T. Wacziarg

UCLA Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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