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A Western Reversal Since the Neolithic? The Long-Run Impact of Early Agriculture

  • Ola Olsson (a1) and Christopher Paik (a2)

Abstract

In this article we document a reversal of fortune within the Western agricultural core, showing that regions which made early transition to Neolithic agriculture are now poorer than regions that made the transition later. The finding contrasts recent influential works emphasizing the beneficial role of early transition. Using data from a large number of carbon-dated Neolithic sites throughout the Western agricultural area, we determine approximate transition dates for about 60 countries, 280 medium-sized regions, and 1,400 small regions. Our empirical analysis shows that there is a robust negative, reduced-form relationship between years since transition to agriculture and contemporary levels of income both across and within countries. Our results further indicate that the reversal had started to emerge already before the era of European colonization.

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Footnotes

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We thank the editor, Dan Bogart, and anonymous reviewers for their feedback and guidance. We are also grateful for useful comments from Ran Abramitzky, Daron Acemoglu, Quamrul Ashraf, Lisa Blaydes, Carles Boix, Matteo Cervellati, Ernesto Dal Bo, Carl-Johan Dalgaard, Jared Diamond, James Fearon, Oded Galor, Avner Greif, Douglas Hibbs, Ian Hodder, Saumitra Jha, Timur Kuran, Nippe Lagerlöf, Anastasia Litina, Neil Malhotra, Stelios Michalopoulos, Louis Putterman, James Robinson, Gérard Roland, Jacob Shapiro, Pablo Spiller, Enrico Spolaore, Romain Wacziarg, David Weil, and from seminar participants at Berkeley Haas, Brown, East Anglia, Gothenburg, Stanford, the Zeuthen Workshop in Copenhagen, and the CAGE Workshop in Warwick. This work was supported in part by a grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) award number FA 9550-09-1-0314.

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References

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A Western Reversal Since the Neolithic? The Long-Run Impact of Early Agriculture

  • Ola Olsson (a1) and Christopher Paik (a2)

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