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Complexity and EvolutionToward a New Synthesis for Economics$
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David S Wilson and Alan Kirman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035385

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035385.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 26 May 2022

The Diffusion of Institutions

The Diffusion of Institutions

(p.147) 9 The Diffusion of Institutions
Complexity and Evolution

Enrico Spolaore

Romain Wacziarg

The MIT Press

This chapter explores the fundamental drivers of economic development and political institutions. It provides a novel empirical analysis of the determinants of institutional differences and the diffusion of institutional innovations across societies. A critical discussion of the recent literature is presented, documenting how economic and political outcomes are affected by traits that have deep historical and geographic roots and that are passed on from generation to generation. The hypothesis is presented that intergenerationally transmitted traits affect current outcomes by acting as barriers to the diffusion of technological and institutional innovations: a longer historical separation time between populations creates greater barriers. Hence, the degree of ancestral distance between a given society and the society at the frontier of institutional and technological development should be associated with higher barriers and lower adoption. This hypothesis is tested empirically with cross-country data. Empirical findings provide substantial support for the proposition that long-term historical distance from the frontier affects both current institutions and development.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, democracy, economic development, innovation, institutions, intergenerational transmission

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