Social institutions undoubtedly affect a country’s economy. But how does this effect operate and how much does it matter for economic development? Using network analysis tools, we explore how different social structures might affect a country’s rate of technological progress. The network model also explains why societies with a high prevalence of contagious disease might adopt growth-inhibiting social institutions and how small initial differences can produce large differences in incomes. Empirical work uses differences in the prevalence of diseases spread by human contact and the prevalence of other diseases as an instrument to identify an effect of social structure on technology diffusion.
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