Family Characteristics and Economic Development

40 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2014 Last revised: 10 Feb 2020

Date Written: October 28, 2016


This paper links economic development to age-old family characteristics through the propensity to invest and thus increase human productivity. Inequality among siblings favors investment in physical capital, while a high status of women and strong parental authority favor investment in human capital. To test this theory, a family score is built according to the presence of these three characteristics in the traditional family type of each country. This family score as well as basic family characteristics are significantly associated with better economic outcomes (GDP per capita as well as proxies for investment in human and physical capital). These relationships are robust to other factors already identified as playing a role, such as geography, ethnic fractionalization, genetic diversity, religion, and formal institutions. Reverse causality is rejected by both historical anthropology and an instrumental investigation.

Keywords: Economic development, Family model, Cultural economics, Reversal of fortune

JEL Classification: N10, N30, N50, O10, O50, Z10

Suggested Citation

Le Bris, David, Family Characteristics and Economic Development (October 28, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

David Le Bris (Contact Author)

Toulouse Business School ( email )

20, bd Lascrosses
Toulouse, 31068

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