Bryan Caplan  

EconLog Reading Club: Ancestry and Long-Run Growth

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In last year's Caplan-Jones immigration debate, Garett heavily appealed to research on ancestry and growth.  The gist:
Countries now inhabited by the descendants of historically advanced civilizations do much better than countries now inhabited by descendants of historically backwards civilizations.  How do they measure "advanced" and "backward"?  Several ways, especially state history (S), dawn of agriculture (A), and technology in 1500 AD (T).
Since this research is interesting, important, and neglected, I'm starting off the new year with a reading club on the topic.  I propose the following articles and due dates:

Reading #1 (Wednesday, January 27): Putterman, Louis, and David Weil. 2010. "Post-1500 Population Flows and the Long-Run Determinants of Economic Growth and Inequality." Quarterly Journal of Economics 125(4): 1627-1682.

Reading #2 (Wednesday, February 3): Comin, Diego, William Easterly, and Erick Gong. 2010. "Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 BC?" American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics 2(3): 63-97.

Reading #3 (Wednesday, February 10): Spolaore, Enrico, and Romain Wacziarg. 2013. "How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?" Journal of Economic Literature 51(2): 325-369.

Reading #4 (Wednesday, February 17): Chanda, Areendam, C. Cook, and Louis Putterman. 2014. "Persistence of Fortune: Accounting for Population Movements, There Was No Post-Columbian Reversal." American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics 6(3): 1-28.

As in earlier book clubs, I'll open each discussion with a post summarizing, then analyzing, the reading.  Readers can join the conversation in the comments.  I'll also invite the authors to participate, either in the comments or as guest posts.  I'll close the book club with an "Ask Me Anything" post.

Who's in?

COMMENTS (12 to date)
Blake writes:

Nber has an ungated copy of paper 1. Conceptually rich stuff.

Jeb writes:

Great idea, I'm in!

Buckland writes:

All of the papers seem to have undated versions. Just google the title.

BTW, the last word in the last title is Reversal.

Stephen jones writes:

I'm in

Kevin writes:

I'm a little busy with thesis stuff, but I'll try to follow along as well!

Daniel Klein writes:

A great initiative. But I can only say I am in for following your posts on it.

Phil writes:

I think this is a great idea and an important topic,

I'll do my best to do the readings and contribute whatever thoughts come to me

Thank you for offering this, Bryan. I'm in for the first paper at least. If there is something valuable to me which I may learn through a look into mainstream economic literature — why yes I want it.

But I am skeptical. I already have some pretty well established ideas about development, expressed by the Fraser Institute freedom survey and a paper of my own.

Adam writes:

I would like to join as well.

Joshua writes:

I'm keen to read more about this - I think fear of asking these kind of questions is a major problem for growth economics and the various models I've studied so far at undergraduate level.

Matt M writes:

Cracking idea for the book club and many thanks for the reading list. Can't help but feel that by the criteria mentioned, immigrants from Syria would have to be treated as coming from a "very advanced civilization." Syria picks up big points in the "dawn of ag" category, and in pre-Columbian Europe, the Hellenized eastern med was the heart of civilization; W. Europe, especially places we now think of as economic heavy-lifters like Germany and England, was an uncivilized frontier. I'd warrant that an observer looking at England circa 1500 would see a state about as significant and powerful as modern Belgium. Syria was also a highly civilized part of the Muslim/Arab empire for many centuries.

But maybe none of the ancient history matters much, and it's largely the events dating from the scientific/industrial revolution and afterwards that matter? Including "dawn of agriculture," however, as a criteria seems to imply that ancient history matters much more. Interested to read on.

Maximum Liberty writes:

I think I am in.

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