My ANU colleague Sambit Bhattacharya has a new paper on the causes of African underdevelopment. He tests various theories, and concludes that what matters most is having a climate that is conducive to malaria. Here’s the abstract:
Root Causes of African Underdevelopment
Forthcoming Journal of African Economies
What are the root causes of Africa’s current state of under-development? Is it the long history of slave trade, or the legacy of extractive colonial institutions, or the fallout of malaria? We investigate the relative contributions of these factors using Atlantic Â distance, Indian Ocean distance, Saharan distance, Red Sea distance, log settler mortality, and malaria ecology as instruments. The results show that malaria matters the most and all other factors are statistically insignificant. Malaria also negatively affects savings. The results are robust even when the malaria ecology instrument is replaced by frost, humidity, and rainfall and when the latter are used as additional control variables. We find that frost alone is enough to knock off the effects of slave trade and institutions on long term development in Africa.
Impressively, Sambit has also posted his code on his website, so anyone who wants to check or extend his results can readily do so.