A Western Reversal since the Neolithic? The Long-Run Impact of Early Agriculture

Ola Olsson, Christopher Paik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we document a reversal of fortune within the Western agricultural core, showing that regions which made early transition to Neolithic agriculture are now poorer than regions that made the transition later. The finding contrasts recent influential works emphasizing the beneficial role of early transition. Using data from a large number of carbon-dated Neolithic sites throughout the Western agricultural area, we determine approximate transition dates for about 60 countries, 280 medium-sized regions, and 1,400 small regions. Our empirical analysis shows that there is a robust negative, reduced-form relationship between years since transition to agriculture and contemporary levels of income both across and within countries. Our results further indicate that the reversal had started to emerge already before the era of European colonization.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Economic History
StatePublished - 2020


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