Bryan Caplan  

Two Fun Facts from Putterman-Weil

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It takes a regime change... Correlation and causation...
Putterman and Weil generously shared their whole data set with me - including a lot of info not available online.  I soon discovered two fun facts about ancestry-adjusted state and agricultural history.  Remember that state history is bounded from 0-1, agricultural history from 0-10.5.

Fact 1: The U.S. does better on both measures than the average country.

For ancestry-adjusted state history, the U.S. scores .57, versus .44 for the average country.

For ancestry-adjusted agriculture, the U.S. scores .59, versus .55 for the average country.

Qualitatively, of course, this is just what Garett has emphasized.  Quantitatively, though, it's underwhelming.  Americans' historical background is nothing special.

Fact 2: The U.S. does worse on both measures than the world as a whole.

The world's most populous countries - China and India - both outscore the U.S. on both measures.  Which made me wonder: What happens if we weight countries' scores by their populations?  Results:

For ancestry-adjusted state history, the U.S. scores .57, versus .62 for the world.

For ancestry-adjusted agriculture, the U.S. scores .59, versus .68 for the world.

Yes, by PW's metrics, Americans come from subpar stock.  Deal with it.

Now consider: World GDP per capita is about $13,000; U.S. per capita GDP is around $53,000.  According to basic arithmetic, if everyone on Earth enjoyed current U.S. per-capita GDP, world GDP would roughly quadruple.

So what?  Taken literally, Putterman-Weil predicts that U.S. per-capita GDP would rise if the entire world population - warts and all - immigrated here.  World GDP would be more the four times its current height.  Personally, I think this is highly unlikely.  But if you prefer regressions over common sense, Michael "Double GDP" Clemens look like a pessimist.




COMMENTS (4 to date)
E. Harding writes:

"Personally, I think this is highly unlikely."

-Me, too. State history and history of agriculture doesn't matter that much. Race does. Just compare Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan with Japan. The former all had a state history of over four thousand years; the latter had a history of agriculture of roughly three thousand years and a state history of roughly two thousand.

MG writes:

I am not sure this analysis accounts for "intra-culture" variations in "stock". Different historical emigration patterns and immigration regimes could produce an "above par" population from average or even below average pools. For example from among some emigrant pools, selection for positive traits may be higher. Additionally, the incentives and disincentives (to select for positive traits) introduced by the nature of the immigration regime (and socio-economic environment) at the time could enhance or reduce this selection. Put simply: Can immigration events select for "better stock" (or worse) from among the source immigrant culture?

Floccina writes:
Yes, by PW's metrics, Americans come from subpar stock. Deal with it.

Take that HBDers.

American exceptional-ism.

Jeff writes:
Yes, by PW's metrics, Americans come from subpar stock. Deal with it.

No surprise there. That's exactly what you'd expect from two centuries worth of "give us your tired, your poor" sentimentalism.

I kid, I kid. Sort of.

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