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Long-run historical and ecological determinants of economic development mediated by the cultural evolution of effective institutions

Adam Flitton and Thomas E. Currie

No cy4fd, SocArXiv from Center for Open Science

Abstract: A huge number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain the substantial diversity in economic development. There is growing appreciation that cultural evolutionary processes may have played an important role in this emergence of this diversity. Historical factors such as the length of time societies have had experience with centralized political governance, or how long they have employed agricultural subsistence strategies have been presented as explanatory factors that have contributed to present-day economic performance. However, it is not clear whether duration of agriculture and ancestral statehood have exerted a direct effect on modern productivity, or whether they influence economies indirectly by shaping the evolution of norms or formal institutions. Here we use structural equation modelling and a global nation-level dataset to test between hypotheses involving a range of direct and indirect pathways. We show that the historical timing of agriculture predicts the timing of the emergence of statehood, which in turn affects economic development indirectly through its effect on institutions. Ecological factors appear to affect economic performance indirectly through their historical effects on the development of agriculture and by shaping patterns of European colonization. These results support the idea that cultural evolutionary processes have been important in creating effective institutions that enable large-scale cooperation and economic growth in present-day societies.

Date: 2018-12-21
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-evo, nep-his and nep-hme
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DOI: 10.31219/

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