European settler mortality has been proposed as an instrument to predict the causal effect of colonial institutions on differences in economic development. We examine the relationship between mortality, temperature, and economic development in former European colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. We find that (i) European settler mortality rates increased with regional temperatures and (ii) economic output decreased with regional temperatures. Conditioning on the continent of settlement and accounting for colonies that were not independent as of 1900 undermines the causal effect of colonial institutions on comparative economic development. Our findings run counter to the institutions hypothesis of economic development, showing instead that geography affected both historic mortality rates and present-day economic output.
Assenova, V. A., & Regele, M. (2017). Revisiting the effect of colonial institutions on comparative economic development. PLoS ONE, 12(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0177100