How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?
Journal of Economic Literature
no. 2, June 2013
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.
Spolaore, Enrico, and Romain Wacziarg.
"How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?"
Journal of Economic Literature,
Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
Measurement of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Social and Economic Stratification