How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?

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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Journal of Economic Literature

The Journal of Economic Literature is a peer-reviewed academic journal on economy published by the American Economic Association. It was established in 1963 as the Journal of Economic Abstracts. As a review journal, it mainly features essays and reviews of recent economic theories (as opposed to the latest research). Its current editor in chief is Steven Durlauf.

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