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Missionaries, human capital transmission, and economic persistence in South America

VOX – CEPR Policy Portal, 20 October 2018, by Felipe Valencia Caicedo.

Though volumes have been written about Jesuit Missions in South America, very little is known about their long-term economic legacy. Using a novel dataset, this column argues that the 17th century Guarani Jesuit Missions had long-lasting positive effects on education and income. It also suggests cultural and occupational mechanisms that might be driving the persistent effects observed. […]

Editor’s note: A previous version of this column first appeared as a chapter in the Vox eBook, The Long Economic and Political Shadow of History, Volume 3, available to download here. […]

The aftermath of European colonialism has been an active area of research in the social sciences. While Europeans often imposed extractive institutions and created exploitative economic relationships (Acemoglu et al. 2001), they also transferred human capital, cultural values, and technological know-how (Glaeser et al. 2004,Easterly and Levine 2016), which may have led to beneficial effects in the long run. In terms of mechanisms, Dell (2010) stresses the negative effect of the mitalabour system in Latin America, while Nunn and Wantchekon (2011) document the adverse impact of African slavery through decreased trust. Less is known, however, about the way in which other colonial arrangements (moral legitimacy aside) might have led to positive outcomes in the long run. […]

Read the full article here