The Diffusion of Development

59 Pages Posted: 18 May 2006 Last revised: 12 Jul 2012

See all articles by Enrico Spolaore

Enrico Spolaore

Tufts University - Department of Economics

Romain T. Wacziarg

UCLA Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2006

Abstract

This paper studies the barriers to the diffusion of development across countries over the very long-run. We find that genetic distance, a measure associated with the amount of time elapsed since two populations%u2019 last common ancestors, bears a statistically and economically significant correlation with pairwise income differences, even when controlling for various measures of geographical isolation, and other cultural, climatic and historical difference measures. These results hold not only for contemporary income differences, but also for income differences measured since 1500 and for income differences within Europe. We uncover similar patterns of coefficients for the proximate determinants of income differences, particularly for differences in human capital and institutions. The paper discusses the economic mechanisms that are consistent with these facts. We present a framework in which differences in human characteristics transmitted across generations - including culturally transmitted characteristics - can affect income differences by creating barriers to the diffusion of innovations, even when they have no direct effect on productivity. The empirical evidence over time and space is consistent with this "barriers" interpretation.

Suggested Citation

Spolaore, Enrico and Wacziarg, Romain T., The Diffusion of Development (April 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12153. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=896225

Enrico Spolaore

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

Romain T. Wacziarg (Contact Author)

UCLA Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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