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Geography, demography, and early development


This paper explores the role of geography in early development. It presents a model where the odds of survival are higher in geographically favorable regions. In such regions, higher life expectancy prompts parents to devote more of their resources to old-age consumption and enables them to invest relatively more in the quantity and quality of their offspring. Investment in education, together with population growth, helps geographically-favorable economies to attain high levels of a more educated population that is necessary for sustained economic growth. The empirical evidence is generally supportive of the view that geographic attributes influenced regional population levels in Europe and its colonial offshoots around 1500 A.D. and that they affected population levels and educational attainment in low-income countries of the 1990s.

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Correspondence to Murat Iyigun.

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For useful comments and suggestions I thank the editor, two anonymous referees, Daron Acemoglu, Ann Carlos, Phil Graves, Naci Mocan, Oded Stark, seminar participants at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Colorado at Denver, and the 2002 Royal Economic Society Annual Conference. I owe a special debt of gratitude to my advisor Herschel Grossman who passed away in October 2004 after leaving his mark on many of us in the profession. The standard disclaimer applies.

Responsible editor: Alessandro Cigno.

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Iyigun, M. Geography, demography, and early development. J Popul Econ 18, 301–321 (2005).

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JEL classification

  • J13
  • O11
  • O33


  • Human capital
  • demographic transition
  • growth