back to article Economists: European ancestors are what make you rich

A pair of American economists believe they have found out the underlying factor which predicts which people will be rich and which ones poor. The men believe that the wealth of a country is directly related to what proportion of its population's ancestors lived in Europe five hundred years ago. In a department-of the-bleedin- …


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  1. Cameron Colley

    Funded by the Arian Nation?

    Seriously -- unless there are some major facts missing from your report all these figures suggest is that Europe and Japan generally have climates capable of supporting feudal systems and farming and that Europeans were lucky in their initial exploitation of America.

    Rather than obvious -- I'd say their conclusions are in much the same vein as those who think the color of someone's skin is related to their intelligence.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Same rasist shite again

    This is a replay of old racist theory that was used at one point to justify that slave-descendant African-Americans are an inferior race. That one stated that slave catchment formed a part of natural selection - only stupid ones got caught. This sounds like a replay of the same old gem.

    Frankly, authors of both probably belong in the same place - on trial for attempting to justify genocide and racism.

  3. jack horner

    Guns, Germs and Steel...?


  4. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Bad economics / science an economist your summary of the paper makes me wince (I can't be bothered to read the actual paper to see who's at fault) This is surely a classic example of established correlation being used to imply causality... which is a load of crap as any decent scientist or even economist could tell you.

    Icon for obvious reasons....

  5. Hilary Curtis

    "If we understand which culturally transmitted factors are important"

    I'd hazard a guess that money might conceivably be an important culturally transmitted factor. Duh!

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Makes sense

    It's bleeding obvious that africans are less able to feed, clothe, and look after themselves than europeans.

  7. Gareth

    Economic Migrants rather than Race a Factor?

    Surely the key factor here is that people descended from families who have been economic migrants are successful, rather than the fact they're from Europe?

    For example, British Pakistani families tend to be successful entrepreneurs, as migrant Jews have been almost everywhere they've settled, despite not being of magical European blood.

    This would correlate with research that shows immigrants being responsible for a disproportionate number of startup companies (50%+ in Silicon Valley).

    The dull, unmotivated members of a nationality will stay at home while the ambitious upstarts will take themselves to where they see opportunity. Nothing to do with race or ancestry.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Was this The Journal of Irreproducible Results?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think those nations may be richer becouse they benifited from preferential trade with Europe during Europes hayday, the cash and technology aquired during that time has made them all the more wealthy since.

    I find the term African American funny btw, just becouse someone is black doesn't mean they came from Africa, there are plenty of black people who come from other regions, you don't say African Jamaican or African Australian do you? Just assuming that someone came from Africa becouse their black is racist. Also what if their not American, but becouse they're black they get tard with the old African American slur. Stupid term. And you don't use the term European African for European Africans, or European Americans, why is it only white people in America can be Americans but anyone else is a "insert nation" American?

  10. kyle elliott


    While I don't doubt the current numbers, I think its more of how they were raised rather than based on race. Typically in the 30-40's people were raised with values and morales ingrained in them, while other races were mistreated and any attempt they had to raise their children the same way was being hampered by the rest of the populace. Now parents don't want to raise their children at all, and want the governernment to do it for them, so lets see how it plays out in 30-40 years. I think the tide will turn, and hard.

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    No offense, Lewis, but...

    ...I think "No shit, Sherlock" was all that needed to be said. Does the Economist have the cheek to charge a fee for this "publication" of theirs?

  12. Daniel Garcia
    Thumb Down

    Really, no F**king title need.

    no sirs, what give us the europeans decendant our economic superiority (right now) is the "beautiful" combination of inquisitive geeks+power freaks+racist superiority belief of the last centuries.

    That let a world dominated by european-white for long , with the 20 century full of example of where that cock-tell drive us.

    Now the geek side is moving to Asia, in 5 hundred years someone could say exactly the same racist shit but speking of asian ancestors population.

  13. Scotty

    Either Racist or...

    The spread of British traditions of corporations, democracy, rights and rule of law has had a massive effect on the ability to generate wealth. Which would also cast a view on why the colonies of absolute monarchies did not have the same economic impact despite being of the same racial make-up

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Go west!

    "Nonetheless, Putterman and Weil believe that if the world's poor could learn to be more like European-descended people, they might become big economic successes too - perhaps, in timely fashion, just as the rich economies of the world are largely imploding."

    Or, as we used to say, "make the world England".

    However, on the other hand, one might give the examples of Liberia and Sierra Leone as countries that tried to "go Euro", and see how well that turned out.

    Face it, Europeans are successful because historical we've sat on the funny-coloured locals wherever we go. We're still willing to do it. Hell, we're even willing to squash our fellow whities in the quest for the big bucks. The only thing that stops that is pesky "labour laws". Thankfully the ones with funny-coloured faces don't have labour laws, so we can pay them a pittance while crippling them with unsafe machinery and poisoning them with horrendously toxic substances. Why can't we do that here? If we could, it would cut unemployment at a stroke.

    You know what? The relative lack of success of non-whites may well be due to something we used to call "compassion" and "community spirit"....

  15. Schultz
    Thumb Up

    So nice

    I for one am proud of my hard-working ancestors.

    Another coffee please, need to whittle away some more time on the intertubes.

  16. Stephen Channell

    Shock correlation between ancestry and malnutrition

    Perhaps these professors should be encouraged to follow through with there analysis, take a sabbatical to Darfur, and investigate whether there European heritage gives them a better chance of survival.

  17. Bassey
    Thumb Up

    Re: Kyle elliot

    > Now parents don't want to raise their children at all

    That's right Kyle. Well done. All parents, today, do not want to raise their children. This is because every parent on the planet is too busy taking drugs, surfing p@rn, getting involved in gangs, fiddling social security and watching reality TV.

    Daily Mail/Encyclopaedia Britannica. What's the difference eh?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    .."European ancestors are what make you rich"

    Then Australia and the UK would be richer than the US, and Qatar would be poverty stricken, but it just 'aint so.

  19. A J Stiles
    Thumb Up

    Well, yes .....

    This was more or less the premise behind "Guns, Germs and Steel": the Agricultural Revolution depended on domesticatable plant and animal species, which were (1) already most concentrated in the so-called Fertile Crescent and (2) able to withstand migration, as this was mainly along parallels of latitude and therefore to regions with similar climates.

    Such thinking was roundly denounced by cultural anthropologists, who could not accept that people were the constant but assigned undue importance to social, cultural and religious factors, and trendy-lefties who had their illusion of there being something inherently evil white people shattered.

  20. The Other Steve

    perhaps a form of economic culture, a set of attitudes or beliefs

    Or perhaps fuck off big wads of cash and a hot pluggable economic model ? And guns.

  21. Anonymous Coward


    I love teh comment about making the world England :) I thought it already was except they spoke funny and had funny food.

    Could the result be that 500 years ago there wasnt teh laws there are now so people could be explouted making new wealth ?

    Oh well.

    I for one would like to see teh reformation of the Empire and those bloody colonists slapped down finally.

    No matter what Bill Gates says there is no suchthing as American English, just English.

  22. Tom Regan
    Thumb Up

    @LOLing AC

    I am proud to be directly beneath such an excellent troll.

  23. Petrea Mitchell
    IT Angle

    So... rich ancestors tend to make you rich?

    "... other groups of people than Europeans have set out to colonise places in the modern era and done very well: whereas being moved across the oceans as slaves doesn't seem to help people at all."

    So, basically, if your ancestors were first to grab a piece of the globalized pie and hang on to it, you're more likely to be rich.

  24. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Not racist *or* "rasist"

    Re: "Same rasist shite again "

    Nothing racist here, you guys are MAKING it racist. Europe had a pretty hefty trade empire, and this is likely the leftovers of that. If the europeans in these areas had (relatively) wealthy parents/grandparents/etc. those inheritances will prop up the local economy a bit, if there was infrastructure invested in that'll help, and so on.

    There could be cultural differences too... for instance, when I was in Morocco, Marrakesh and fez were a bit "wesernized". Outside that, people were real casual about work, it was nearly universal for people to take a 1-2 hour nap after lunch, holes in buildings were not getting patched, trains, busses, etc. never really ran on time (outside the capitol) and so on. (The naps are generally because it's too hot in the afternoon to go out, but I was surprised when people did this anyway even when it was room temperature outside.) This all was actually quite OK, people didn't seem to have any work stress etc. like here, but certainly leads to a rather sluggish economy and less economic development. It also appeared pretty sustainable, not like this economic bubble that's bursting as we speak in the US.

  25. Bill

    Oh My F**king God!

    The reason Europe was so successful is because during it's colonial period it was willing and able to go to other less militarily advanced nations and take their resources.

    Allow me unlimited and low cost access to the resources of others and I'll be very successful too!

    These two American economists must be members of the Aryan Brotherhood or some other White Supremacist organization.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    I think Montezuma said it best...

    "I for one welcome our Western European overlords!"

  27. Trix

    These morons should read Guns, Germs and Steel

    ...or a look at how colonial European societies dominated the others.

    Also, lumping in Oz and NZ into that pie graph is really irritating. Australian indigenous population: 2.5%. NZ indigenous population: 12%. It makes a difference.

  28. Kevin Whitefoot

    (2) able to withstand migration...

    (2) able to withstand migration, as this was mainly along parallels of latitude and therefore to regions with similar climates.

    Are you seriously suggesting that areas of the same latitude necessarily have similar climates?

    Latitude 55: Novosibirsk, Moscow, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Kaliningrad, Kamchatka, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, Labrador, Derry, Northern Ireland, Newcastle upon Tyne. (Source:, yes I know it's Wikipedia, scoff if you must but if you can do better then fix it)

    Granted none of them are tropical but some have temperature ranges of +-30K while others are rather temperate. It seems unlikely that latitude has much to do with similar climates in this context.

    And where does the idea that migration was along parallels come from?

  29. Steve
    Thumb Down

    They shoot horses, why not economists?

    "The influence of population origins suggests that there is something that human families and communities transmit from generation to generation — perhaps a form of economic culture, a set of attitudes or beliefs, or informally transmitted capabilities — that is of... importance to economic success."

    It's called "inheritance" and it's so well known that we not only have a word for it but also a tax.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have observed...

    ...that the paddocks with the greater number of sheep are invariably the paddocks with the greater supply of fodder. We must try to discover what it is that sheep do that makes the grass grow.

    Seriously though, Europeans colonised everywhere they could. They leveraged their connections to mother country and continent to convert natural resources into wealth. They left when they were either booted out or the gravy train ran dry. Its a little like saying that rodents improve the buoyancy of ships because ships always seem to sink when the rats exit suddenly...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    AC wrote: And you don't use the term European African for European Africans, or European Americans, why is it only white people in America can be Americans but anyone else is a "insert nation" American?

    You mean like those "Irish Americans"? or more like the "Italian Americans"? Those pesky white people, not following your racist agendas, tsk tsk.

    Perhaps I missed the point and you actually meant something more along the lines of "Latino" - as far from speaking Latin as you can get!

  32. oldfartuk
    Paris Hilton

    Welcome to World History 101

    Its patently obvious this is basically correct.

    Who pioneered the Age the Exploration? Where was printing invented? Where did the Industrial Revolution start .? Etc Etc.

    Certainly wasnt a mud hut in Zambia.............even Paris know that.

  33. Midas
    Paris Hilton


    Being an Iberian, I resent the fact that everybody here seems to think that it were the British that set forth the age of exploration.

    Truth is, by the time they got there the Portuguese & Spainiards -- and the French and the Dutch, to a lesser extent -- had already done all the work and two centuries had gone by.

    Paris, because she has european ancestry (and you'd meet her in World History 101, if ignorance didn't rule nowadays)

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