The Long-Lived Effects of Historic Climate on the Wealth of Nations
38 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2010
Date Written: November 2009
We investigate the long-run consequences of historic, climatic temperatures (1730-2000) for the modern cross-country income distribution. Using a newly constructed dataset of climatic temperatures stretching over three centuries (18th, 19th, and 20th), we estimate a robust and significant time-varying, non-monotonic effect of climatic temperature upon current incomes for a cross-section of 167 countries. We find a large, positive effect of 18th century climatic temperature and an even larger, negative effect of 19th century climatic temperature upon current incomes. When historic, climatic temperature is introduced, the effect of 20th century climatic temperature on current income is either weakly positive or insignificant. Our findings are robust to various sub-samples, additional geographic controls, and alternative income measures. The negative relationship between current, climatic temperature and current income that is commonly estimated appears to reflect the long-run effect of climatic variations in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Keywords: climate, economic performance, geography, history, temperature
JEL Classification: N50, O11, O40, O50, O57
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