Feeds

Economists: European ancestors are what make you rich

No shit, Sherlock

High performance access to file storage

A pair of American economists believe they have found out the underlying factor which predicts which people will be rich and which ones poor. The men believe that the wealth of a country is directly related to what proportion of its population's ancestors lived in Europe five hundred years ago.

In a department-of the-bleedin-obvious bit of collation, profs Louis Putterman and David Weil of Brown University point out that most of the nations on Earth with high per-capita GDP are populated predominantly by people whose ancestors lived in Europe before the Age of Exploration.

Weil and Putterman's world migration map

It's not what you know or who you know. It's who your great18-grandad knew.

The power of regional origins is illustrated by the fact that 44 per cent of the variance in 2000 per capita GDP is accounted for by the share of the population’s ancestors that lived in Europe in 1500... The results indicate a degree of persistence of capacity to generate or to capture income that is almost breathtaking.

They suggest that "developmental advantages acquired hundreds or even thousands of years ago" could be responsible for the fact that those who have pre-Columbian Euro ancestors are generally haves, and those who have not are have-nots.

The influence of population origins suggests that there is something that human families and communities transmit from generation to generation — perhaps a form of economic culture, a set of attitudes or beliefs, or informally transmitted capabilities — that is of... importance to economic success.

All that said, the cases of Japan (very rich, almost no European ancestors) and Latin American countries (not very rich, many as Euro-descended as the US and Canada are) seem to hint that there might be other factors in play. Indeed the Brown economists do acknowledge that other groups of people than Europeans have set out to colonise places in the modern era and done very well: whereas being moved across the oceans as slaves doesn't seem to help people at all.

To attempt to explain the 20th Century success stories of Taiwan and Singapore or the struggles of Haiti and the Dominican Republic without reference to their non-European population movements seems comparable to trying to explain the economic emergence of an Australia or a Canada with no mention of European colonization.

Nonetheless, Putterman and Weil believe that if the world's poor could learn to be more like European-descended people, they might become big economic successes too - perhaps, in timely fashion, just as the rich economies of the world are largely imploding.

"If we understand which culturally transmitted factors are important... we might be able to design policy interventions that could help less successful groups and countries to close their developmental gaps," say the economists. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.