Macroeconomics and genetics

Spolaore and Waczair, 2006. THE DIFFUSION OF DEVELOPMENT

In this paper we have documented the following facts: First, differences in income per capita across countries are positively correlated with measures of genetic distance between populations. Second, genetic distance, an overall measure of differences in vertically transmitted characteristics across populations, bears an effect on income differences even when a large set of geographical and other variables are controlled for. Third, the patterns of relationships between income differences and measures of genetic and geographical distances hold not only for current worldwide data but also for estimates of income per capita and genetic distance since 1500, as well as in a sample of European countries. Finally, similar patterns hold when the dependent variable is differences in human capital, institutional quality, population growth and investment rates.

These results strongly suggest that characteristics transmitted from parents to children over long historical spans play a key role in the process of development. In particular, the results are consistent with the view that the diffusion of technology, institutions and norms of behavior conducive to higher incomes, is affected by differences in vertically transmitted characteristics associated with genealogical relatedness: populations that are genetically far apart are more likely to differ in those characteristics, and thus less likely to adopt each other’s innovations over time. The pattern of the effects of genetic distance in space and time, and the interaction with geographical distance, suggest that genetic distance is associated with important barriers to the diffusion of development Some evidence, particularly the results for European countries, also suggests that these differences may stem in substantial part from cultural (rather than purely genetic) transmission of characteristics across generations.

This should be read along with: Gelade, 2008. IQ, cultural values, and the technological achievement of nations

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