The Influence of Ancestral Lifeways on Individual Economic Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa

58 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2016

See all articles by Stelios Michalopoulos

Stelios Michalopoulos

Brown University - Department of Economics; Brown University

Louis Putterman

Brown University - Department of Economics

David N. Weil

Brown University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2016

Abstract

Does a person's historical lineage influence his or her current economic status? Motivated by a large literature in social sciences stressing the effect of an early transition to agriculture on current economic performance at the level of countries, we examine the relative contemporary status of individuals as a function of how much their ancestors relied on agriculture during the pre-industrial era. We focus on Africa, where by combining anthropological records of groups with individual level survey data we can explore the effect of the historical lifeways of one's forefathers. Within enumeration areas and occupational groups, we find that individuals from ethnicities that derived a larger share of subsistence from agriculture in the precolonial era are today more educated and wealthy. A tentative exploration of channels suggests that differences in attitudes and beliefs as well as differential treatment by others, including differential political power, may contribute to these divergent outcomes.

Suggested Citation

Michalopoulos, Stelios and Putterman, Louis G. and Weil, David Nathan, The Influence of Ancestral Lifeways on Individual Economic Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa (January 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w21907. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2721748

Stelios Michalopoulos (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Brown University ( email )

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Louis G. Putterman

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

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David Nathan Weil

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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