Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


Cliodynamics bannerUC Riverside

Was Wealth Really Determined in 8000 BCE, 1000 BCE, 0 CE, or Even 1500 CE?



Olsson and Hibbs (2005) and Comin, Easterly, and Gong (2010) make persuasive theoretical and empirical cases for the persistence of early biogeographical and technological advantages in predicting the distribution of national economic wealth. However, these results are challenged with an examination of sixteen observations on economic complexity, GDP per capita, and city size spanning as much as ten millennia and eight to eleven regions. The regional complexity/wealth hierarchies are relatively stable only for finite intervals. Early advantages, thus, have some persistence but do not linger indefinitely. The rich do not always get richer or even stay rich, and the poor sometimes improve their standings in the world pecking order dramatically. Early advantages are important but need to be balanced with the periodic potential for over-riding them.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View