Physiological Constraints and Comparative Economic Development

46 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2018

See all articles by Carl-Johan Dalgaard

Carl-Johan Dalgaard

University of Copenhagen

Holger Strulik

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

Date Written: August 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.

Suggested Citation

Dalgaard, Carl-Johan and Strulik, Holger, Physiological Constraints and Comparative Economic Development (August 2018). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP13119. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3235602

Carl-Johan Dalgaard (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen

Nørregade 10
Copenhagen, København DK-1165
Denmark

Holger Strulik

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

Germany

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