Ancestry and Development

New Evidence

  • Enrico Spolaore Tufts University and NBER
  • Romain Wacziarg UCLA Anderson School of Management and NBER


We revisit the relationship between ancestral distance and barriers to the diffusion of devel-
opment using a new genomic dataset on human microsatellite variation. With this new data we
confirm past findings of a statistically and economically significant effect of ancestral distance
from the technological frontier on income per capita. The historical pattern of the effect is
hump shaped, peaking between 1870 and 1913, and declining steeply afterwards. These findings
are consistent with the hypothesis that ancestral distance acts as a temporary barrier to the
diffusion of innovations and development.

How to Cite
SPOLAORE, Enrico; WACZIARG, Romain. Ancestry and Development. UCLA CCPR Population Working Papers, [S.l.], july 2017. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 aug. 2017.