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Journal of Economic Literature: Vol. 51 No. 2 (June 2013)

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How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?

Article Citation

Spolaore, Enrico, and Romain Wacziarg. 2013. "How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?" Journal of Economic Literature, 51(2): 325-69.

DOI: 10.1257/jel.51.2.325

Abstract

The empirical literature on economic growth and development has moved from the study of proximate determinants to the analysis of ever deeper, more fundamental factors, rooted in long-term history. A growing body of new empirical work focuses on the measurement and estimation of the effects of historical variables on contemporary income by explicitly taking into account the ancestral composition of current populations. The evidence suggests that economic development is affected by traits that have been transmitted across generations over the very long run. This article surveys this new literature and provides a framework to discuss different channels through which intergenerationally transmitted characteristics may impact economic development, biologically (via genetic or epigenetic transmission) and culturally (via behavioral or symbolic transmission). An important issue is whether historically transmitted traits have affected development through their direct impact on productivity, or have operated indirectly as barriers to the diffusion of productivityenhancing innovations across populations.

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Authors

Spolaore, Enrico (Tufts U and CESifo, Munich)
Wacziarg, Romain (UCLA)

JEL Classifications

J11: Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
O33: Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
O47: Measurement of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
Z13: Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Social and Economic Stratification


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