The deep roots of economic development in the U.S. states: an application of Putterman and Weil (2010)


The “Deep Roots” literature investigates the effects of ancient cultural variables on economic outcomes. We extend Putterman and Weil’s (Q J Econ 125(4):1627–1682, 2010) inquiry into the effects of State History and Agricultural History to the economic output in ethnically and racially diverse fifty U.S. States. The ethnic and racial differences across the populations of the fifty U.S. states vary considerably due to historical immigration and slave flows that, as a result, produced radically different State History and Agricultural History scores across the states. Results derived from Putterman and Weil’s methodology do not robustly predict per capita levels of economic output across U.S. States. We also investigate the institutions channel, and find that they impact some measures of institutions, but they do not impact the quality of economic institutions which may be essential for promoting economic growth and development.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    For a comparison between the indexes of economic institutions and other institutional indexes, see Lawson and Murphy (2015).

  2. 2.

    We relied entirely on information gathered from the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey:

    African Americans: S0201, American Community Survey Asians: PCT5, U.S. Census

    Natives: DP-1 America Fact Finder, Census Demographics

    White European/Arabic/Sub-Saharan African/some Asian: B04006 American Community Survey, ACS 1 Year.

    Hispanic/Latino/South American/Spanish/Spaniard: B03001 American Community Survey, ACS 1 Year.

  3. 3.

    See ACA S0201, 2011 for Italian ancestry.

  4. 4.

    Unlike Putterman and Weil (2010), we did not include a dummy variable for a Eurasian country in this robustness check because none of the U.S. State are in Eurasia.

  5. 5.

    The simple number of years (thousands) was used for agricultural history. A normalized version of state history was used, specifically the “statehistn05v3” variable in the online dataset.

  6. 6.

    Because of the nature of these regressions and the nature of the deep roots literature, the year for all these variables is simply most recent available.

  7. 7.

    Data on the Gini Coefficient is from Census.

  8. 8.

    Americas 1.1


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Correspondence to Ryan H. Murphy.

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Appendix A: Elaboration of application of Putterman & Weil’s method to the U.S. states

Appendix A: Elaboration of application of Putterman & Weil’s method to the U.S. states

State table

The table is a breakdown of U.S. state ancestry in 2010 with a target year of 1500. The table mimics the Brown University matrix created by Putterman and Weil (S&A) in means of data collection and presentation with a few small methodological changes. Data for this matrix came from the U.S. Census:

Natives: DP-1 America Fact Finder, Census Demographics
Asians: PCT5 Census
African Americas: S0201, B02009, 3 year or 5 year based on availability
White European/Arabic/Sub-Saharan African/some Asian B04006 American Fact Find, ACS 3 Year or 5-year based on availability
Hispanic/Latino/South American/Spanish/Spaniard QT-P10 American Fact Find, 1SF 100%


These groups were separated on the Census but regrouped for this matrix (see below). T

  • GBR- UK

    Includes Welsh, Scottish, 1/2 of the Scotts-Irish (those who answer “American” on the Census), English and British

  • Ireland

    Includes Celtic, Ireland, and 1/2 of the Scotts-Irish

  • French

    Includes Basque, French Canadian, and French

  • German

    Includes Russian German, Pennsylvania German, and German

  • Czech Republic

    Includes Czech Republic and Czechoslovakian

  • Spain

    Includes Spanish, Spaniard, and Spanish American

  • African American

African-American ancestry is split between the African countries in the same proportions as S&A use. Below is a portion of the S&A Matrix Americas Appendix, as they explainFootnote 8:

  • Genetic admixture among African-Americans has been widely studied. We looked at five recent studies (Tishkoff et al. 2009, Parra et al. 2001, Parra et al. 1998, Smith et al. 2004, Lind et al. 2007) and found the estimates of European admixture among African-Americans generally fell between 15-20%, with 1-2% admixture from Amerindians. Lind et al. (2007) note that geneticists commonly use 20% as an estimate of white admixture in African-Americans. The five studies give data at local levels, with small sample sizes in individual cities or regions, usually between 20 and 45 individuals. However, the percentage of European and Amerindian admixture does not vary greatly, with the European share generally staying within 15-20%, and the Amerindian share around 1%. We treat 80% of the ancestors of contemporary African-Americans as having resided in Africa in 1500, allocating them among countries according to the principles in the Main Appendix. 19% of African-Americans’ ancestors are assumed to have resided in Europe and are divided among European countries in the same proportions as European ancestors of other Americans.* 1% of African-Americans’ ancestors are assumed to be Amerindian and thus native to the United States. Angela Brittingham and G. Patricia de la Cruz, “Ancestry: 2000 (Census 2000 Brief),” U.S. Census Bureau, June 2004. Lind, Joanne M. et al., 2007, “Elevated male European and female African contribution to the genomes of African American individuals,” Human Genetics 120: 713-722.Parra, Esteban J. et al., 1998, “Estimating African American Admixture Proportions by Use of Population-Specific Alleles,” American Journal of Human Genetics 63(6): 1839-1851. Parra, Esteban J. et al., 2001, “Ancestral Proportions and Admixture Dynamics in Geographically Defined African Americans Living in South Carolina,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 114:18-29.Smith, Michael W. et al., 2004, “A High Density Admixture Map for Disease Gene Discovery in African Americans, American Journal of Human Genetics 74(5): 1001-1013.Tishkoff, S.A. et al. 2009. “The genetic structure and history of Africans and African Americans.” Science. 324(5930): 1035-44.” African Country of Origin Region of Disembarkation in the Americas.

  Brazil The Caribbean U.S.A. Other
Angola 42.1015% 14.51875% 15.364% 27.29525%
Benin 1.589% 6.2475% 1.0395% 4.9315%
Cameroon 0.5365% 7.5255% 5.3998% 2.262%
Congo 12.8135% 4.41875% 4.676% 8.30725%
Congo DRC 9.1525% 3.15625% 3.34% 5.93375%
Cote d’Ivoire 0 1.305% 2.103% 0.474%
Equatorial Guinea 0.111% 1.557% 1.1172% 0.468%
Gabon 9.5225% 8.34625% 7.064% 7.49375%
Gambia 0.15% 0.974% 4.264% 0.334%
Ghana 2.05% 15.1% 12.01% 21.19%
Guinea 0.091% 1.4625% 3.28575% 1.0465%
Guinea-Bissau 0.225% 1.461% 6.396% 0.501%
Liberia 0 3.045% 4.907% 1.106%
Madagascar 5.5392% 0.6816% 0.3968% 0.9536%
Mozambique 8.8281% 1.0863% 0.6324% 1.5198%
Nigeria 2.825% 16.71% 7.071% 9.385%
Sao Tome and Principe 0.2775% 3.8925% 2.793% 1.17%
Senegal 0.375% 2.435% 10.66% 0.835%
Sierra Leone 0.189% 3.0375% 6.82425% 2.1735%
Tanzania 2.9427% 0.3621% 0.2108% .5066%
Togo 0.681% 2.6775% 0.4455% 2.1135%

South American Division

Due to the set ancestral date of 1500, it is assumed that many of the Hispanic and Latino groups that have migrated into the USA would have ancestral lineage back to Europe and Africa as well as South America. We split up the Latino and Hispanic populations on the state level according to the ancestries as reported in their home countries.

Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Hawaiian

These citizens were grouped in the column USA.

Scandinavian and Yugoslavian

A small number of Census respondents answered that they were “Scandinavian” or “Yugoslavian.” We separated them by country of origin in this way:

Scandinavian—Sweden 50%, Norway 45%, and Finland 5%

Yugoslavian—Croatia 65%, Slovenia 10%, Serbia 25%

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Murphy, R.H., Nowrasteh, A. The deep roots of economic development in the U.S. states: an application of Putterman and Weil (2010). J Bioecon 20, 227–242 (2018).

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  • Deep roots
  • State history
  • Agricultural history
  • Institutions
  • Economics of migration

JEL Classification

  • O15
  • O43
  • Z13