October 12, 2012

"How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?"

Here's an extract from a lengthy new paper assessing various acceptable economic history theories of everything:
How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?
Enrico Spolaore
Tufts University,
NBER and CESIfo 
Romain Wacziarg
UCLA,
NBER and CEPR 
In order to illustrate the main empirical findings of the contributions discussed herein, we punctuate this paper with our own empirical results based on a unified dataset, regression methodology and sample. This analysis is not meant to be an exhaustive recapitulation of existing results, but simply to illustrate some important milestones in the recent literature. We use, alternately, log per capita income in 2005 (from the Penn World Tables version 6.3) as a measure of contemporary economic performance, and population density in 1500 (from Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones, 1978) as a measure of economic performance in 1500, and regress these on a variety of proposed determinants of development, starting here with geographic factors. 
Table 1, column 1 shows that a small set of geographic variables (absolute latitude [i.e., the distance from the equator, e.g., New Zealand has a similar absolute latitude as Oregon], the percentage of a country's land area located in tropical climates, a landlocked country dummy, an island country dummy) can jointly account for 44% [r = 0.66] of contemporary variation in log per capita income, with quantitatively the largest effect coming from absolute latitude (excluding latitude causes the R2 to fall to 0:29 [r = 0.54]). This result captures the flavor of the above-cited literature documenting a strong correlation between geography and income per capita.

Thus, in the 21st Century, the Nordic social democracies are at the top of most measures of societal competence. The usual winner in recent years is Norway. 

Nor should we assume this is wholly coincidental.

As I mentioned yesterday, Spolaore's analysis is much in line with Michael Hart's 2007 book Understanding Human History. I wrote in VDARE in 2007:
This overall pattern of north conquering south has long been apparent from the historical record—even though northern lands are generally less populous, due to shorter growing seasons.... 
Hart offers a simple, deliberately reductionist model for explaining this (and much else): Foresight is needed to survive cold winters. So harsher, more northerly climates select for higher average intelligence. And intelligence is useful in war. 
Indeed, there is a positive correlation between latitude and the average intelligence of modern countries, as summarized in Richard Lynn's and Tatu Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth of Nations. (Here's my table listing their data.) In 2006, Lynn found a substantial r = 0.67 correlation between national average IQ and the absolute value of latitude. Similarly, the correlation between IQ and average temperature is r = -0.63. 
On the other hand, within continents there often aren't obvious latitude-related IQ disparities. For instance, the IQ differences among most European countries are too small to worry about. 
Northerners have tended to be better at organizing on a large scale. This could be related to intelligence, but doesn't have to be. ...
Enough about conquest. What about contributions? 
The most productive centers of cultural innovation have tended to move north over the millennia, for example, from the Fertile Crescent to Ancient Greece to Renaissance Northern Italy to Enlightenment Northern Europe. Hart attributes this to agriculture tending to arise first in low-to-medium latitude locations with long growing seasons then spreading northward. In hunter-gatherer economies, every man must hunt. But in farming economies, enough food can be produced to support urban sophisticates.

Unfortunately, this survey paper never mentions the highly relevant Hart.

Speaking of the North, I'm reminded of the story of the Russian peasants in a sleigh pursued by wolves who periodically toss one of their number out to delay the wolves.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that southern Germans (Baden-Wurttemburg and Bavaria) have higher IQs than northern Germans, and those states are more economically developed these days. They (plus the fairly brainy Swiss) are generally shorter and darker and have more Celtic/Alphine ancestry than the more Nordic northerners which cuts against higher northern intelligence to some extent. These were also the areas that were ruled by the Romans so maybe that plays into it.

Peter A said...

True "Northerners" don't seem to be particularly above average in intelligence. The indigenous populations of Siberia have a reputation for being a little slow in fact. Same goes for Laplanders,the Inuit, Greenlanders, etc. So the connection would seem to be north enough to have real winters, but south enough to allow agriculture - i.e. Korea, Japan, Central Europe. Anecdotal evidence from 17th-18th century Europeans suggests that the Native American populations of what is now the Northeast US and Southern Canada probably were also of above average intelligence - the Oneida, Algonquins, Iroquois, Mohawks, etc. But it seems that European civilization basically absorbed the high achievers among the native American/Canadian populations.

Marlowe said...

But in farming economies, enough food can be produced to support urban sophisticates.

Who proceed to undermine the civilization which created them.

The correlation between high-IQ and foresight seems to have vanished.

Black Death said...

Another Russian peasant story (and it's really from Russia) -

During Stalin's time, inmates from one of the Gulag camps were taken out in the forest to gather wood. A group of them came upon a goat. Having been deprived of sex as well as just about any other type of pleasure for a long period of time, one of the men fell upon the hapless animal and began to sodomize it. The peasant woman who owned the goat discovered them, and they fled. The woman returned to her hut with the goat and began to complain bitterly to her husband. "W#E must kill the goat!" she told her husband. "Why?" he asked. "Because he is befouled - he had sex with a man!" she sputtered. "Well," the husband answered, "We've been having sex for twenty years - does that mean I have to kill you?"

....

The Russians thought it was hilarious.

neil craig said...

Switzerland also appears beside the Scandanavian countries on most of these lists. While further south it is also full of snow covered mountains so may have a comparablke climate. And of course we Scots played a disproportionate role to the English in establishing the British empire.

Or it may be climate breeds a useful amount of aggressiveness. Vikings, Swiss pikemen, Scots Highlanders, Mongols & Afghans were not necessarily scientifically ahead of Europeans, Italian Renessaincers, Englishmen, Chinese and Hindus respectively but they were more aggressive.

Tristero said...

For an earlier look at this issue, see "The Northward Course of Empire" (1922) by V. Steffanson:

http://archive.org/details/northwardcourse00stefgoog

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:41: Check the temperatures. Is northern Germany warmer or cooler than southern Germany? A comparison of Munich and Hamburg puts Munich as having colder winters.

http://www.climatedata.eu/climate.php?loc=gmxx0087&lang=en

http://www.climatedata.eu/climate.php?loc=gmxx0049&lang=en

Bob Cocking said...

"enough food can be produced to support urban sophisticates."

That's when it all starts to go down hill. Hipsterpocolypse!

Anonymous said...

All this nonsense emanating from economics depts reminds me of a man who's 'lost' his door-keys but who's really left them in his jacket pocket.
Looking everwhere, but looking nowhere.

jody said...

"On the other hand, within continents there often aren't obvious latitude-related IQ disparities. For instance, the IQ differences among most European countries are too small to worry about."

uh, aren't the maghreb people smarter than the saharans and subsaharans? aren't the northern europeans smarter than the mediterranean europeans? aren't the eskimos and aleuts smarter than the navajo and cherokee and sioux?

pat said...

Rushton seemed right on the cusp of suggesting another theory for why people from higher latitudes are smarter.

His paper last July on melanocortin synthesis relates aggression and sexuality to pigmentation. We know that people's skin color is a function of latitude. If the process of acquiring more pigment affects aggression and sexuality perhaps it affects intelligence too. If this happens to be true it would answer a lot of unresolved questions. The theory that humans have to be smarter for colder winters has always seemed thin to me.

In the mean time does anyone know if dogs from the north are smarter than dogs from the south? Dog IQ is a bit different than human IQ but it is very well studied and has reliable quantitative scales. For example are Huskies smarter than Presa Canarios?

I can't find another breed that was bred further south. There does seem to be a trend for northern people to work their dogs and southern people to eat them.

Albertosaurus

Volksverhetzer said...

As a Norwegian, and after having had friends from all over Europe, I don't think we are much smarter than others.

What I find separates more, is that Scandinavians don't so often engage in petty rivalry, and that people tend to do, what they say they will do. Scandinavians are also good at following rules.

All these are traits that might increase survival more than just high intelligence.

Rob said...

As a Norwegian, and after having had friends from all over Europe, I don't think we are much smarter than others.

What I find separates more, is that Scandinavians don't so often engage in petty rivalry, and that people tend to do, what they say they will do. Scandinavians are also good at following rules.

All these are traits that might increase survival more than just high intelligence.


And they are the traits that will destroy you when you bring in millions of non-Whites into your countries and expect them to behave as you do.

jody said...

"His paper last July on melanocortin synthesis relates aggression and sexuality to pigmentation."

yeah, except he's wrong, and i busted his hypothesis. the very dark south asians are relatively meek, meanwhile, the fairer mongolians of central asia were rampaging across the continent for centuries. even in africa we find that some of the east african peoples are very dark indeed, while being less aggressive and warlike than most of the west african groups, who are less dark than the darkest east africans.

the idea itself is not preposterous, from the perspective of pigmentation mutations perhaps affecting an animal in more ways than just it's skin, hair, and eye colors. we know even in humans that this happens in some cases. a melanocortin 1 receptor mutation can have peripheral effects in a person's nervous system and cardiovascular system.

however, the data just don't support the hypothesis. you have to exclude over 1 billion south asians from the "darkies are violent because they're darkies!" data. and then also ignore that the han chinese, who are relatively fair, are some of the most violent, aggressive, and cruel people on earth.

Anonymous said...

You seem to contradict yourself when you write:


Thus, in the 21st Century, the Nordic social democracies are at the top of most measures of societal competence. The usual winner in recent years is Norway.
Nor should we assume this is wholly coincidental.



But then write:


On the other hand, within continents there often aren't obvious latitude-related IQ disparities. For instance, the IQ differences among most European countries are too small to worry about.


Well, if the differences between European countries aren't worth worrying about, then we shouldn't expect Norway to be ahead of Albania.

Anonymous said...

Scandinavians seem to be at the top of the list in a lot of things, at least among Europeans. Average IQ, Nobel laureates per capita, Olympic gold medals per capita, various quality of life indices, most blonds per capita, etc.

The only area in which Scandinavians don't seem to excel is in the arts, especially music. Musical talent seems to increase the further south you go.

jody said...

"The only area in which Scandinavians don't seem to excel is in the arts, especially music"

isn't modern techno pop fairly scandinavian? all these current songs by black americans with techno beats and choruses, that's mostly a german/dutch/scandinavian thing. the sound which has taken over US studio pop music comes from northwest europe.

scandinavians also write songs for the korean pop music wave. i'm not sure what percentage of writing credits go to them, but lots of the girl group songs, if you check the credits, it's foreign names, not korean names.

Anonymous said...

"Foresight is needed to survive cold winters. So harsher, more northerly climates select for higher average intelligence. And intelligence is useful in war"

There's a reasonably well known English novel of the past 50-odd years, the name of whose author escapes me, in which the hero's father opines that a beer-drinking country will always beat a wine-drinking country.