Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This dissertation empirically tests whether adaptations resulting from the Neolithic Revolution, or the widespread adoption of sedentary agriculture for sustenance, have led to economic differences. The development of sedentary agriculture constituted an environmen- tal shift from the previous sustenance method of hunting and gathering. This environmental shift resulted in the natural selection of certain traits. I seek to exploit differences in these traits to measure differing economic outcomes. Two main adaptations are considered in this work: the ability to consume milk, or lactose tolerance, and resistance to infectious Eurasian diseases, which is the result of genetic variation. The first essay establishes a link between lactose tolerance and economic conditions in the pre-colonial era. The ability to digest milk, or to be lactose tolerant, is conferred by a gene variant, which is unequally distributed across the Old World. Digesting milk con- ferred qualitative and quantitative advantages to early farmers’s diets, which ultimately, led to differences in the carrying capacities of respective countries. The second essay inves- tigates the role of genetic differences in resistance to infectious diseases on contemporary health outcomes. The Neolithic Revolution led to the initiation and sustainability of new infectious diseases. The differential timing of the Neolithic Revolution created differences in exposure to these infectious pathogens. Ultimately, this led to differential selection of genetic resistance, in which diversity within a key component of the immune system, the major histocompatibility complex, was favorable. We evaluate this advantage through the construction of a common measure of genetic diversity that is constructed solely from gene variants within the major histocompatibility complex, known as the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system in humans. The final essay explores the complementarity between potatoes and milk in explaining the large population growth experienced throughout the Old World in the 18th and 19th centuries.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Chanda, Areendam



Included in

Economics Commons