Geography and Economic Development

CID Working Paper No. 1

John Luke Gallup and Jeffrey D. Sachs, with Andrew D. Mellinger
March 1999


This paper addresses the complex relationship between geography and macroeconomic growth. We investigate the ways in which geography may matter directly for growth, controlling for economic policies and institutions, as well as the effects of geography on policy choices and institutions. We find that location and climate have large effects on income levels and income growth, through their effects on transport costs, disease burdens, and agricultural productivity, among other channels. Furthermore, geography seems to be a factor in the choice of economic policy itself. When we identify geographical regions that are not conducive to modern economic growth, we find that many of these regions have high population density and rapid population increase. This is especially true of populations that are located far from the coast, and thus that face large transport costs for international trade, as well as populations in tropical regions of high disease burden. Furthermore, much of the population increase in the next thirty years is likely to take place in these geographically disadvantaged regions.

Keywords: geography, empirical growth models, transportation costs, tropical disease, tropical agriculture, urbanization, population

JEL codes: O10, O13, O40, O57