Romain Wacziarg

Profile photo of Romain Wacziarg
“Economics is the study of how to eliminate barriers to riches. If you want your organization or your country to prosper, there is no better investment you can make than to study economics.”

Professor of Economics, Hans Hufschmid Chair in Management

Areas of Expertise

  • Economic Development
  • Ethics
  • Globalization
  • Growth
  • International Finance
  • International Trade
  • Macroeconomics
  • Political Economy
  • Strategy




Romain Wacziarg is a professor of economics at UCLA Anderson School of Management and holds the Hans Hufschmid Chair in Management. He joined the faculty in 2008 to expand the international research focus of the school’s Global Economics and Management area.

Wacziarg seeks to understand what explains economic performance. This broad topic can be tackled on several levels: What make individuals successful? What makes organizations successful? What makes countries successful? It’s the last question that preoccupies him most. Better understanding the sources of the wealth of nations is an age-old endeavor that goes back at least to the days of Adam Smith.

A major facilitator of the spread of wealth and modernity is globalization. By reducing barriers to the flow of goods, people, capital and especially technology, globalization can lead to the spread of wealth around the world. The examples of India and China, which in recent decades joined the global economy, are cases in point. As Wacziarg points out: “Barriers to the exchange of ideas across cultures and civilizations are most often overlooked, yet huge gains in prosperity could be made by spreading technologies around the world.”

Another major theme of Wacziarg’s research is to study the causes and effects of the global spread of democracy over the last few decades. Is democracy a luxury good that only wealthy countries can afford, or does democracy promote prosperity? Both views have something to contribute. Democracy often ensures the stability and predictability that can make businesses thrive in the long run, even if it is not always a panacea in the short run. And countries definitely become more democratic as their populations become more educated and wealthier. So over the long sweep of history, democracy and wealth go together.

In a more recent set of papers Wacziarg has researched how deeply rooted features of societies affect their economic performance today. These features include the historical legacy of geography, ethnic divisions resulting from complex historical paths and the cultural traits inherited from ancestors. All these features have effects on prosperity today, and the challenge for economists is to understand how to overcome the constraints that these historical factors create for growth, particularly in poor countries. As Wacziarg states: “Features of societies that are deeply rooted in their history have a surprisingly persistent effect on economic performance today. The silver lining is that globalization is reducing the weight of history by gradually eliminating barriers to the spread of prosperity.”

Wacziarg is also passionate about teaching. He regularly teaches Managerial Economics, a core class in the full-time MBA program. He teaches electives on the business environment of India (culminating in a study trip there), on the big macroeconomic trends of today (such as the recent financial crisis), as well as a Ph.D. course on methods in political economy. “I believe firmly in the mission of our business school,” he says. “Management matters hugely for performance, and better management can absolutely be taught in the classroom. The most gratifying aspect of teaching managerial economics is to witness, year after year, how students’ understanding of the world around them changes after a mere 10-week quarter.”



Ph.D. Economics, 1998, Harvard University

M.A. Economics, 1996, Harvard University

M.A. Economics, 1992, Université Paris-Dauphine

B.A. Economics and Public Policy, 1990, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris



War and Relatedness (with Enrico Spolaore) - Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 98, no. 5, December 2016, pp. 925–939. [ Link ]

The Diffusion of Institutions (with Enrico Spolaore) – in Wilson, D. S. and A. Kirman, eds. Complexity and Evolution: Toward a New Synthesis for Economics. Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 19, chapter 9, pp. 147-166. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2016.[ Link ]

Linguistic Cleavages and Economic Development (with Klaus Desmet and Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín) - in Victor Ginsburgh and Shlomo Weber (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Economics and Language, Chapter 15, pp. 425-446, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.[ Link ]

Ancestry, Language and Culture (with Enrico Spolaore) - in Victor Ginsburgh and Shlomo Weber (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Economics and Language, Chapter 6, pp. 174-211, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.[ Link ]

Fabrice Murtin, Romain Wacziarg. (2014). The Democratic Transition. Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 19, no. 2. [ Link ]

Enrico Spolaore, Romain Wacziarg. (2014). Long-Term Barriers to Economic Development. in Philippe Aghion and Steven Durlauf (eds.), Handbook of Economic Growth, vol. 2A,, Chapter 3, pp. 121-176. [ Link ]

Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg. (2013). How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development? Journal of Economic Literature, vol. 51, no 2. [ Link ]

Romain Wacziarg. (2012). The First Law of Petropolitics. Economica, col. 79, no. 316. [ Link ]

Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg. (2012). Long Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations. in Jeffrey Frankel and Christopher Pissarides, eds., NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2011, Chapter 1, pp. 11-46. [ Link ]

Klaus Desmet, Ignacio Ortuno-Ortin and Romain Wacziarg. (2012). The Political Economy of Linguistic Cleavages. Journal of Development Economics, vol. 97, no. 2, pp. 322-338. [ Link ]

Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg. (2009). The Diffusion of Development.Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 124, no. 2, pp. 469-529. [ Link ]

William R. Hauk, Jr and Romain Wacziarg. (2009). A Monte Carlo Study of Growth Regressions. Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 103-147[ Link ]

Romain Wacziarg and Karen Horn Welch. (2008). Trade Liberalization and Growth: New Evidence. World Bank Economic Review, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 187-231. [ Link ]

Peter Lorentzen, John McMillan, Romain Wacziarg. (2008). Death and Development. Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 81-124. [ Link ]

William R. Hauk, Jr. and Romain Wacziarg. (2007). Small States, Big Pork.Quarterly Journal of Political Science, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 95-106. [ Link ]

Alberto Alesina, Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg. (2005). Trade, Growth and the Size of Countries. In Philippe Aghion and Steven Durlauf (eds.), Handbook of Economic Growth, vol. 1, part 2, Chapter 23, pp. 1499-1542. Amsterdam: North Holland. [ Link ]

Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg. (2005). Borders and Growth. Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 331-386. [ Link ]

Dani Rodrik and Romain Wacziarg. (2005). Do Democratic Transitions Produce Bad Economic Outcomes? American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, vol. 95, no. 2, pp. 50-55. [ Link ]

Romain Wacziarg and Jessica Wallack. (2004). Trade Liberalization and Intersectoral Labor Movements. Journal of International Economics, vol. 64, no. 2, pp. 411-439. [ Link ]

Alberto Alesina, Arnaud Devleeschauwer, William Easterly, Sergio Kurlat and Romain Wacziarg. (2003). Fractionalization. Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 155-194. [ Link ]

Jean Imbs and Romain Wacziarg. (2003). Stages of Diversification. American Economic Review, vol. 93, no. 1, pp. 63-86. [ Link ]

Romain Wacziarg. (2002). Review of Easterly’s “The Elusive Quest for Growth”. Journal of Economic Literature, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 907-918. [ Link ]

Romain Wacziarg. (2001). Measuring the Dynamic Gains From Trade. World Bank Economic Review, vol. 15. no. 3, pp. 393-429. [ Link ]

José Tavares and Romain Wacziarg. (August 2001). “How Democracy Affects Growth”, European Economic Review, vol. 45, no. 8, August 2001, pp. 1341-1379.

Alberto Alesina, Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg. (December 2000). “Economic Integration and Political Disintegration”, American Economic Review, vol. 90, no. 5. December 2000, pp. 1276-1296.

Alberto Alesina and Romain Wacziarg. (June 2000). “The Economics of Civic Trust”, in Susan J. Pharr and Robert D. Putnam (eds.), Disaffected Democracies: What's Troubling the Trilateral Countries?, Chapter 7. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Alberto Alesina and Romain Wacziarg. (December 1999). “Is Europe Going Too Far?” Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, vol. 51, no. 1, pp.1-42.

Alberto Alesina and Romain Wacziarg. (September 1998). “Openness, Country Size and Government”, Journal of Public Economics, vol. 69, no. 3, pp.305-321.


Working Papers

Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg. (June 2016). “Ancestry and Development: New Evidence.”

Klaus Desmet, Ignacio Ortuno-Ortin and Romain Wacziarg. (October 2016). “Culture, Ethnicity and Diversity”

Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg. (August 2014). “Fertility and Modernity”

Jean Imbs, Claudio Montenegro and Romain Wacziarg. (February 2012). “Economic Integration and Structural Change”


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