Physiological Constraints and Comparative Economic Development

43 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2018  

Carl‐Johan Dalgaard

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Holger Strulik

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) - School of Law, Economics, Social Sciences

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 08, 2018

Abstract

It is a well known fact that economic development and distance to the equator are positively correlated variables in the world today. It is perhaps less well known that as recently as 1500 C.E. it was the other way around. The present paper provides a theory of why the “latitude gradient” seemingly changed sign in the course of the last half millennium. In particular, we develop a dynamic model of economic and physiological development in which households decide upon the number and nutrition of their offspring. In this setting we demonstrate that relatively high metabolic costs of fertility, which may have emerged due to positive selection towards greater cold tolerance in locations away from the equator, would work to stifle economic development during pre-industrial times, yet allow for an early onset of sustained growth. As a result, the theory suggests a reversal of fortune whereby economic activity gradually shifts away from the equator in the process of long-term economic development.

Keywords: long-run growth, evolution, nutrition, fertility, education, comparative development

JEL Classification: O110, I120, J130

Suggested Citation

Dalgaard, Carl‐Johan and Strulik, Holger, Physiological Constraints and Comparative Economic Development (January 08, 2018). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6794. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3122452

Carl-Johan Lars Dalgaard

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark
+45 3532 4407 (Phone)

Holger Strulik (Contact Author)

University of Goettingen (Gottingen) - School of Law, Economics, Social Sciences ( email )

Germany

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