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Colonialism and Modern Income -- Islands as Natural Experiments

James Feyrer and Bruce Sacerdote ()

No 12546, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: Using a new database of islands throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans we examine whether colonial origins affect modern economic outcomes. We argue that the nature of discovery and colonization of islands provides random variation in the length and type of colonial experience. We instrument for length of colonization using wind direction and wind speed. Wind patterns which mattered a great deal during the age of sail do not have a direct effect on GDP today, but do affect GDP via their historical impact on colonization. The number of years spent as a European colony is strongly positively related to the island's GDP per capita and negatively related to infant mortality. This basic relationship is also found to hold for a standard dataset of developing countries. We test whether this link is directly related to democratic institutions, trade, and the identity of the colonizing nation. While there is substantial variation in the history of democratic institutions across the islands, such variation does not predict income. Islands with significant export products during the colonial period are wealthier today, but this does not diminish the importance of colonial tenure. The timing of the colonial experience seems to matter. Time spent as a colony after 1700 is more beneficial to modern income than years before 1700, consistent with a change in the nature of colonial relationships over time.

JEL-codes: E21 O11 O4 O40 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2006-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dev, nep-his and nep-mac
Note: EFG DAE
References: View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (13) Track citations by RSS feed

Published as James Feyrer & Bruce Sacerdote, 2009. "Colonialism and Modern Income: Islands as Natural Experiments," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(2), pages 245-262, November.

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