State history and economic development: evidence from six millennia

Oana Borcan, Ola Olsson, Louis Putterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)
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The presence of a state is one of the most reliable historical predictors of social and economic development. In this article, we complete the coding of an extant indicator of state presence from 3500 BCE forward for almost all but the smallest countries of the world today. We outline a theoretical framework where accumulated state experience increases aggregate productivity in individual countries but where newer or relatively inexperienced states can reach a higher productivity maximum by learning from the experience of older states. The predicted pattern of comparative development is tested in an empirical analysis where we introduce our extended state history variable. Our key finding is that the current level of economic development across countries has a hump-shaped relationship with accumulated state history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-40
JournalJournal of Economic Growth
Issue number1
Early online date8 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • State history
  • Comparative development
  • Institutions
  • Deep roots

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