Pre-Industrial and Post-War Economic Development:
Is There a Link?
John P. Burkett, Catherine Humblet, and Louis Putterman
Working Paper 96-4
The paper explores the idea that the stage of social and economic development attained by a country prior to industrialization may have influenced its post-war growth performance. Reasons are given for hypothesizing that societies characterized by high population density, large-scale states, and intensive agriculture may be better prepared for modern economic growth than those characterized by low population density, small political units, and extensive agriculture, pastoralism, or hunting and gathering. This hypothesis is assessed by econometric analysis of cross-national data covering the years 1960-90, using population density, farm population per cultivated hectare, and the proportion of cultivated land irrigated in 1960 as proxies for pre-industrial development. The hypothesis finds support both in a sample of developing countries and in a larger sample including developed as well as developing countries. It also receives support from a subsample of countries for which measures of pre-industrial development are available for 1911 as well as 1960.