The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation

68 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2000

See all articles by Daron Acemoglu

Daron Acemoglu

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Simon Johnson

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Entrepreneurship Center; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

James A. Robinson

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

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2000

Abstract

We exploit differences in the mortality rates faced by European colonialists to estimate the effect of institutions on economic performance. Our argument is that Europeans adopted very different colonization policies in different colonies, with different associated institutions. The choice of colonization strategy was, at least in part, determined by whether Europeans could settle in the colony. In places where Europeans faced high mortality rates, they could not settle and they were more likely to set up worse (extractive) institutions. These early institutions persisted to the present. We document evidence supporting these hypotheses. Exploiting differences in mortality rates faced by soldiers, bishops and sailors in the colonies in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries as an instrument for current institutions, we estimate large effects of institutions on income per capita. Our estimates imply that differences in institutions explain approximately three-quarters of the income per capita differences across former colonies. Once we control for the effect of institutions, we find that countries in Africa or those closer to the equator do not have lower incomes.

JEL Classification: O1, P1

Suggested Citation

Acemoglu, Daron and Johnson, Simon and Robinson, James A., The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation (September 2000). MIT Dept. of Economics Working Paper No. 00-22. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=244582 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.244582

Daron Acemoglu (Contact Author)

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Simon Johnson

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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James A. Robinson

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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