Long-Term Barriers to Economic Development

67 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2013 Last revised: 14 Mar 2015

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: August 2013

Abstract

What obstacles prevent the most productive technologies from spreading to less developed economies from the world's technological frontier? In this paper, we seek to shed light on this question by quantifying the geographic and human barriers to the transmission of technologies. We argue that the intergenerational transmission of human traits, particularly culturally transmitted traits, has led to divergence between populations over the course of history. In turn, this divergence has introduced barriers to the diffusion of technologies across societies. We provide measures of historical and genealogical distances between populations, and document how such distances, relative to the world's technological frontier, act as barriers to the diffusion of development and of specific innovations. We provide an interpretation of these results in the context of an emerging literature seeking to understand variation in economic development as the result of factors rooted deep in history.

Suggested Citation

Spolaore, Enrico and Wacziarg, Romain T., Long-Term Barriers to Economic Development (August 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19361. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2315445

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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