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The "Out of Africa" Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development

By Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor

Abstract

This research argues that deep-rooted factors, determined tens of thousands of years ago, had a signi.cant e¤ect on the course of economic development from the dawn of human civilization to the contemporary era. It advances and empirically establishes the hypothesis that in the course of the exodus of Homo sapiens out of Africa, variation in migratory distance from the cradle of humankind to various settlements across the globe a¤ected genetic diversity and has had a direct long-lasting e¤ect on the pattern of comparative economic development that could not be captured by contemporary geographical, institutional, and cultural factors. In particular, the level of genetic diversity within a society is found to have a hump-shaped e¤ect on development outcomes in the pre-colonial era, re.ecting the trade-o¤ between the bene.cial and the detrimen- tal e¤ects of diversity on productivity. Moreover, the level of genetic diversity in each country today (i.e., genetic diversity and genetic distance among and between its ancestral populations) has a similar non-monotonic e¤ect on the contemporary levels of income per capita. While the intermediate level of genetic diversity prevalent among the Asian and European populations has been conducive for development, the high degree of diversity among African populations and the low degree of diversity among Native American populations have been a detrimental force in the development of these regions. Further, the optimal level of diversity has increased in the process of industrialization, as the bene.cial forces associated with greater diversity have intensi.ed in an environment characterized by more rapid technological progress..Out of Africa. hypothesis; Human genetic diversity; Comparative development; Population density; Neolithic Revolution; Land productivity; Malthusian stagnation

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