CiteWeb id: 20120000013

CiteWeb score: 7417

DOI: 10.1257/aer.102.6.3077

In Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson, henceforth AJR, (2001), we advanced the hypothesis that the mortality rates faced by Europeans in different parts of the world after 1500 affected their willingness to establish settlements and choice of colonization strategy. Places that were relatively healthy (for Europeans) were—when they fell under European control—more likely to receive better economic and political institutions. In contrast, places where European settlers were less likely to go were more likely to have “extractive” institutions imposed. We also posited that this early pattern of institutions has persisted over time and influences the extent and nature of institutions in the modern world. On this basis, we proposed using estimates of potential European settler mortality as an instrument for institutional variation in former European colonies today. Data on settlers themselves are unfortunately patchy—particularly because not many went to places they believed, with good reason, to be most unhealthy. We therefore followed the lead of Curtin (1989 and 1998) who compiled data on the death rates faced by European soldiers in various overseas postings. 1 Curtin’s data were based on pathbreaking data collection and statistical work initiated by the British military in the mid-nineteenth century. These data became part of the foundation of both contemporary thinking about public health (for soldiers and for civilians) and the life insurance industry (as actuaries and executives considered the