The origins of financial development: How the African slave trade continues to influence modern finance..

Interesting paper by  Ross Levine (who else), Chen Lin and Wensi Xie”

In this paper, we contribute to research on two interrelated questions: What are the historical determinants of national differences in financial development and through which mechanisms do these historical factors influence the operation of modern financial systems?

We focus on the historical African slave trade during the period from 1400 – 1900, which Nunn and Wantchekon (2011) show has had an enduring effect on social cohesion and culture across Africa. More specifically, we examine the impact of the intensity with which people were captured, enslaved, and exported from Africa on financial development today and key institutions that shape modern financial systems. With respect to the first question, Pierce and Snyder (2017a) show that the slave trade is negatively associated with firm access to credit. We contribute by showing the intensity of the slave trade across African countries is also negatively associated with household access to credit and overall financial development. We further show that the negative association between slave exports and firm access to credit varies in a theoretically predictable manner, as the association is especially pronounced among firms that depend heavily on external finance for technological reasons.

With respect to the second question, we evaluate three potential mechanisms linking the historical slave trade to modern finance. A large body of evidence indicates that information sharing institutions that reduce information asymmetries about potential borrowers, the degree of trust that individuals have in financial institutions, and the quality of legal institutions influence the operation of modern financial systems. We discover that the intensity of the African slave trade in the 1400 – 1900 period is strongly, negatively related to the quality of information sharing institutions and trust in financial institutions but is not strongly related to legal institutions. These findings are consistent with the view that two mechanisms through which the historical slave trade continues to influence modern financial systems across Africa are information sharing institutions and trust.

Need to read it carefully..

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