Long-term Institutional Development and Economic Performance

There is a heated ongoing debate in the field of long term economic development on whether it is geography or ‘institutions’ that has the more important direct effect on current economic performance.  However, one area of consensus in this debate is that geography has an indirect effect on economic performance through its influence on the origin of institutions.  This consensus provides the motivation for a branch of the literature that seeks the geographic origins of economic institutions in the very long run.

This literature concentrates on the geographic and biogeographic endowments conducive to the onset and diffusion of economic development over the past millennia.  Its starting point is the Neolithic revolution (approx. 10,000 B.C.), that is, the transition from hunter-gathering to agriculture and domestication, which led in turn to higher population density, more complex social and economic systems, and the emergence of the state above the tribal level.  The conventional explanation for this deep technological and social change maintains that environmental advantages were instrumental in bringing about the increase of agricultural productivity relative to foraging.  This, combined with the ability to store food, facilitated population agglomeration and the emergence of a non-food producing elite as well as the creation of rudimentary states to oversee the provision of defense.  Although empirical research has found evidence that supports this theory, recent research presents interesting challenges to the received wisdom.  A competing theory argues, for example, that the origin of a non-food producing elite and the emergence of more complex social institutions did not depend on the availability of food surplus but was instead a result of the appropriability of cereal crops from farmers.

Bockstette, Valerie, Areendam Chanda and Louis Putterman (2002). “States and Markets: The Advantage of an Early Start.” Journal of Economic Growth, 7(4): 347-69. [Working paper version]

Borcan, Oana, Ola Olsson, Louis Putterman (2014) “State History and Economic Development: Evidence from Six Millennia.” Working Paper.

Boserup, Ester (1965) The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change under Population Pressure, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London.

Diamond, Jared (1999) Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W. W. Norton.

Gennaioli, Nicola and Ilia Rainer (2007) “The modern impact of precolonial centralization in Africa” Journal of Economic Growth, 12(3): 185-234. [Working paper version]

Mayshar, Joram, Omer Moav, Zvika Neeman and Luigi Pascali (2015) “Cereals, Appropriability and Hierarchy.” Working Paper.

Montesquieu, Charles, 1750. In: Anne M. Cohler, Basia C. Miller and Harold S. Stone (Eds.), 1989. The Spirit of Laws. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

North, Douglass (1982) Structure and Change in Economic History. W.W. Norton & Co., New York.

Nunn, Nathan and Diego Puga (2012) “Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa.” Review of Economics and Statistics, 94(1): 20-36. [Working paper version]

Olsson, Ola and Douglas A. Hibbs (2005) “Biogeography and long-run economic development.” European Economic Review 49: 909 – 938. [Working paper version]

Spolaore, Enrico and Romain Wacziarg (2013) How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development? Journal of Economic Literature, 51(2): 325–369 . [Working paper version]

New Working Papers – January 2016

The following working papers have recently been added to our working papers page.

Bai, Xue, Kala Krishna and Hong Ma (2016) “How You Export Matters: Export Mode, Learning and Productivity in China

Giordani, Paolo, Nadia Rocha and Michele Ruta (2014) “Food Prices and the Multiplier Effect of Trade Policy

Krishna, Kala and Lena Sheveleva (2016) “Wheat or Strawberries? Intermediated Trade with Limited Contracting.

Leahy, Dermot and Catia Montagna (2015)  “Economising, Strategising and the Vertical Boundaries of the Firm

Molana, Hassan and Catia Montagna (2015)  “Selection, Trade, and Employment: the Strategic Use of Subsidies

Rotunno, Lorenzo and Adrian Wood (2015)  “Wages and endowments in a globalised world


IIPF Doctoral School 2016

Social Insurance Programs

Mannheim, Germany
June 15-18, 2016

Luigi Pistaferri, Stanford University
Josef Zweimüller, University of Zurich

Co-organized with:
CESifo, Munich
MaTax, ZEW Mannheim and University of Mannheim
Office of Tax Policy Research, University of Michigan
Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation

The aim of IIPF Schools is to provide a forum in which new researchers can meet to learn about and discuss issues at the forefront of academic research in specific fields of public finance. Each School will be convened by leading and experienced researchers in the relevant field. The convenors will deliver lectures on, and provide an overview of, the School’s topic. New researchers will also have the opportunity to present their own research and receive constructive feedback.

The topic of the 2016 edition of the School will be Social Insurance Programs, and the convenors will be two distinguished experts on this topic:

  •  Luigi Pistaferri, Professor of Economics, Stanford University.
  •  Josef Zweimüller, Professor of Economics, University of Zurich.

Further details and current information

Financial Support
With support from co-organizers and other contributors, the IIPF will cover travel costs, accommodation and subsistence costs for a limited number of participants who are unable to raise funds elsewhere.

TAPES conference
Directly before the IIPF School, on June 13-15, 2016, the ZEW/NBER Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES) will be taking place at ZEW in Mannheim. The TAPES conference is often considered to be among the most important international conferences in the field of public economics. Participants at the IIPF Doctoral School 2016 are welcome to attend the workshop. More information

Places in the School are limited. Anyone who is currently enrolled in a relevant PhD programme, or has graduated from a relevant PhD programme within the last 3 years, is invited to apply to participate in the School. The IIPF especially encourages applications from low and middle income countries.
To apply, please send an email to school@iipf.org by February 29, 2016. The email should contain the following information:

  •  your CV, including details of PhD courses attended, and PhD supervisors;
  •  a brief summary of your research agenda;
  •  a research paper (if you wish to present it at the School; this is not required);
  • an indication of whether you need support for expenses for participating;
  • an indication of whether you would like to attend the TAPES conference (this does not affect acceptance probability);
  • one letter of reference, preferably from your PhD supervisor.

Successful applicants will be notified by mid-March 2016.

Please contact Philipp Doerrenberg (doerrenberg@zew.de) or Barbara Hebele (hebele@ifo.de) in case of questions or inquiries.

Job Opportunity: Assistant Professor, Columbia University in the City of New York

Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Economics to begin in July 2016 (or as soon thereafter as possible). We are particularly interested in candidates working in environmental economics, sustainable development or development economics. 

The successful candidate will contribute to teaching and intellectual leadership in the SIPA curriculum at the master’s level and advise Ph.D. students of the interdisciplinary Sustainable Development Ph.D. program.  

Website for job