Romain Wacziarg

Professor of Economics, Hans Hufschmid Chair in Management
“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.”
Areas of Expertise:
  • Economic Development
  • Ethics
  • Globalization
  • Growth
  • International Finance
  • International Trade
  • Macroeconomics
  • Political Economy
  • Strategy
 

About

 
 

Biography

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.”

 

Education

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

 

Publications

Change and Persistence in the Age of Modernization: Saint-Germain-d'Anxure 1730-1895
(with Guillaume Blanc) - Explorations in Economic History, 78, October 2020, 101352.
- View the coverage in the Anderson Review (09-12-2018).
- Paper (.pdf) / Appendix / NBER Working Paper #25490 / Data Archive

The Political Economy of Heterogeneity and Conflict
(with Enrico Spolaore) - in Tibor Besedeš and Volker Nitsch, eds., Disrupted Economic Relationships: Disasters, Sanctions, Dissolutions, Chapter 1, pp. 7-43, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2019.
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #23278

Ancestry and Development: New Evidence
(with Enrico Spolaore) - Journal of Applied Econometrics, vol. 33, no. 5, August 2018, pp. 748-762.
- View the coverage at the Fundación Ramón Areces (04-04-2019) and at ABC.es (05-13-2019).
- Paper (.pdf) / Appendix / New genetic distance data / Data archive

Culture, Ethnicity and Diversity
(with Klaus Desmet and Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín) - American Economic Review, vol. 107, no. 9, September 2017, pp. 2479-2513. (lead article)
- View the shorter version in Vox (07-31-2016)
- Paper (.pdf) / Appendix / NBER Working Paper #20989 / CEPR Working Paper #10451

War and Relatedness
(with Enrico Spolaore) - Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 98, no. 5, December 2016, pp. 925–939.
- View the shorter version in Vox (07-07-2009) and the coverage in Newsweek Russia (07-13-2009, in Russian), Vanity Fair Italy (08-26-2009, in Italian) and Les Echos (12-05-2015, in French).
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #15095 / Appendix / Data archive

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.
- View the shorter version in Vox (06-27-2015)
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #21242 / CEPR Working Paper #10644 / Appendix / Cultural distance data

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.
- Paper (.pdf)

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.
- View the shorter version in Vox (02-10-2017)
- Paper (.pdf)

Evolution of Institutions and Organizations
(with Thomas Currie, Peter Turchin, Jenna Bednar, Peter J. Richerson, Georg Schwesinger, Sven Steinmo and John Wallis) - in Wilson, D. S. and A. Kirman, eds. Complexity and Evolution: Toward a New Synthesis for Economics. Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 19, chapter 12, pp. 201-236. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2016. - Paper (.pdf)

The Democratic Transition
(with Fabrice Murtin) - Journal of Economic Growth,vol. 19, no. 2, June 2014, pp. 141-181. (lead article)
- View the shorter version in Vox (10-05-2011) and coverage in Hurriyet Daily News, Livemint, Freakonomics Blog, The Globe and Mail, NCPA, Les Echos.
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #17432 / CEPR Working Paper #8599 / Data Appendix

Long-Term Barriers to Economic Development
(with Enrico Spolaore) - in Philippe Aghion and Steven Durlauf (eds.), Handbook of Economic Growth, vol. 2A, Chapter 3, pp. 121-176. Amsterdam: North Holland, 2014.
- View the shorter version in Vox, and coverage in Marginal Revolution, Mother Jones and Salon.com.
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #19361 / CEPR Working Paper #9638

How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?
(with Enrico Spolaore) - Journal of Economic Literature, vol. 51, no. 2, June 2013, pp. 325-369. (lead article)
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #18130 / CEPR Working Paper #8998 / Cross-sectional dataset

The First Law of Petropolitics
Economica, vol. 79, no. 316, October 2012, pp. 641-657.
- View the coverage in Foreign Policy and Tom Friedman’s response
- Paper (.pdf)

Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations
(with Enrico Spolaore) - in Jeffrey Frankel and Christopher Pissarides, eds., NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2011, Chapter 1, pp. 11-46. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, May 2012.
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #17271 / CEPR Working Paper #8541

The Political Economy of Linguistic Cleavages
(with Klaus Desmet and Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín) - Journal of Development Economics, vol. 97, no. 2, March 2012, pp. 322-338.
- View the coverage in The Economist.
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #15360 / CEPR Working Paper #7478 / Linguistic heterogeneity data / Appendix

A Monte Carlo Study of Growth Regressions
(with William R. Hauk, Jr.) - Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 14, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 103-147.
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Technical Working Paper #T0296 

The Diffusion of Development
(with Enrico Spolaore) - Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 124, no. 2, May 2009, pp. 469-529.
- View the coverage in Economic Principals (08-26-2007) and in SmartMoney Russia (05-02-2006, in Russian). - Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #12153 / CEPR Working Paper #5630 / Genetic distance data / Appendix

Trade Liberalization and Growth: New Evidence
(with Karen Horn Welch) - World Bank Economic Review, vol. 22, no. 2, June 2008, pp. 187-231. (lead article)
- Paper (.pdf) / Liberalization Data / NBER Working Paper #10152

Death and Development
(with Peter Lorentzen and John McMillan) - Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 13, no. 2, June 2008, pp. 81-124. (lead article)
- View the coverage in La Vanguardia (10-27-2005, in Spanish).
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #11620 / CEPR Working Paper #5246

Small States, Big Pork
(with William R. Hauk, Jr.) - Quarterly Journal of Political Science, vol. 2, no. 1, January 2007, pp. 95-106. - Paper (.pdf)

Review of Acemoglu and Robinson's "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy"
Science, vol. 313, no. 5793, pp. 1576-1577 (15 September 2006). - Paper

Trade,Growth and the Size of Countries
(with Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore) - in Philippe Aghion and Steven Durlauf (eds.), Handbook of Economic Growth, vol. 1, part 2, Chapter 23, pp. 1499-1542. Amsterdam: North Holland, 2005.
- Paper (.pdf)

Borders and Growth
(with Enrico Spolaore) - Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 10, no. 4, December 2005, pp. 331-386.
- Paper (.pdf) /  NBER Working Paper #9223  / CEPR Working Paper #5202

Do Democratic Transitions Produce Bad Economic Outcomes?
(with Dani Rodrik) - American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, May 2005, pp. 50-55.
- View the coverage in the International Herald Tribune (1-7-2005).
- Paper (.pdf)

Trade Liberalization and Intersectoral Labor Movements
(with Jessica Wallack) - Journal of International Economics, vol. 64, no. 2, December 2004, pp. 411-439.
- Paper (.pdf) / Appendix 

Fractionalization
(with Alberto Alesina, Arnaud Devleeschauwer, William Easterly and Sergio Kurlat) - Journal of Economic Growth, vol. 8, no. 2, June 2003, pp. 155-194. (lead article)
- Paper (.pdf) / Fractionalization Data / NBER Working Paper #9411

Stages of Diversification
(with Jean Imbs) - American Economic Review, vol. 93, no. 1, March 2003, pp. 63-86.
- Paper (.pdf) / Appendix

Review of Easterly's “The Elusive Quest for Growth”
Journal of Economic Literature, vol. 40, no. 3, September 2002, pp. 907-918.
- Paper (.pdf) / Paper in Spanish

Measuring the Dynamic Gains From Trade
World Bank Economic Review, vol. 15. no. 3, October 2001, pp. 393-429.
- Paper (.pdf)

How Democracy Affects Growth
(with José Tavares) - European Economic Review, vol. 45, no. 8, August 2001, pp. 1341-1379. (lead article)
- View the coverage in the New York Times (4-13-2000).
- Paper (.pdf)

Economic Integration and Political Disintegration
(with Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore) - American Economic Review, vol. 90, no. 5. December 2000, pp. 1276-1296.
- Reprinted in Pomfret, Richard (ed.), The Economics of Regional Trading Arrangements, The International Library of Critical Writings in Economics, vol. 161, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2003 (Chapter 23, pp. 471-491).
- View the coverage in the Financial Times (7-1-1997), the Financial Times (12-22-1997), The Economist, (3-1-1998),  Le Monde (12-8-1998), and Business Week (03-19-2001).
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #6163

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

Is Europe Going Too Far?
(with Alberto Alesina) - Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy (supplement to the Journal of Monetary Economics), vol. 51, no. 1, December 1999, pp.1-42. (lead article)
- View the coverage on CNN-fn (12-8-1998) and the shorter version in Vox (06-22-2008).
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #6883

Openness, Country Size and Government
(with Alberto Alesina) - Journal of Public Economics, vol. 69, no. 3, September 1998, pp.305-321. (lead article)
- View the coverage in The Economist (1-3-1998) and again in The Economist (9-27-2014).
- Paper (.pdf) / NBER Working Paper #6024

Working Papers

The Cultural Divide
(with Klaus Desmet) - November 2020
- View the shorter version on the ProMarket blog (07-12-2018) and the coverage in The Economist (07-17-2018) and in the Anderson Review (07-18-2018).
- Paper (.pdf) / Appendix / NBER Working Paper #24630 / CEPR Working Paper #12947

Barriers to Global Capital Allocation
(with Bruno Pellegrino and Enrico Spolaore) - November 2020
- Paper (.pdf)

Who Voted for Trump? Populism and Social Capital
(with Paola Giuliano) - July 2020
- View the coverage in the Boston Globe (08-20-2020), Diario Financiero (08-25-2020) and the Anderson Review (09-02-2020).
- Paper (.pdf) / Appendix / NBER Working Paper #27651 / CEPR Working Paper #15140

Understanding Spatial Variation in COVID-19 across the United States
(with Klaus Desmet) - July 2020
- View the coverage in the National Post (06-22-2020) and the SMU press release (07-02-2020).
- Paper (.pdf) / Appendix / NBER Working Paper #27329 / CEPR Working Paper #14842

Fertility and Modernity
(with Enrico Spolaore) - June 2020
- View the shorter version in Vox (02-10-2017), the coverage in the Anderson Review (09-12-2018), in the Washington Free Beacon (06-19-2019), in WSJ Real Time Economics (06-20-2019), in The Economist (07-25-2019), in Economic Principals (08-04-2019), and in LiveMint.com (08-08-2019).
- Paper (.pdf) / Appendix / NBER Working Paper #25957

The Geography of Diversification
(with Jean Imbs and Ting Ji), January 2019
- Paper (.pdf)

 

Additional Content

Romain Wacziarg on VoxEU.org