Nathan Nunn


Nathan Nunn (born July 9, 1974) is a Canadian economist and Professor at the University of British Columbia.[1] Being one of the world's most prominent economic historians,[2] he is best known for his research on the long-term effects of slave trade on Africa. Other research interests include economic development, cultural economics, political economy and international trade.[3]


A native of Canada, Nathan Nunn earned first a B.A. in economics from Simon Fraser University in 1998 and then a M.A. and PhD in economics from the University of Toronto in 2000 and 2005, respectively. After his graduation, Nunn worked as an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia before moving to Harvard University in 2007. There, he was promoted to the Paul Sack Associate Professorship in Political Economy in 2011, became full professor in 2012, and has held the position of Frederic E. Abbe Professor of Economics since 2016. Nunn maintains affiliations with NBER, BREAD, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Center for African Studies, and the Center for the Environment. Moreover, Nunn currently serves as an Editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics and has performed editorial duties at the Journal of Comparative Economics, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of International Economics, Journal of Development Economics, and the Canadian Journal of Economics in the past.[4]


Nathan Nunn's research focuses on economic history, economic development, cultural economics, political economy and international trade. A recurrent theme in Nunn's research is the long-term impact of historical processes on economic development, often mediated through institutions, culture, knowledge and technology.[5] According to IDEAS/RePEc, Nathan Nunn belongs to the 2% of most cited economists.[6] Key findings of his research include the following:

  • Countries' ability to enforce contracts is possibly a more important determinant of their comparative advantage than skilled labour and physical capital combined.[7]
  • A substantial part of Africa's current underdevelopment appears to be caused by the long-term effects of the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Trans-Saharan and Red sea slave trade.[8]
  • Current differences in trust levels within Africa are attributable to the impact of the slave trades, which have caused the emergence of low-trust cultural norms, beliefs, and values in ethnic groups heavily affected by slavery (with Leonard Wantchekon).[9]
  • By impeding not only trade and technological diffusion but also the depredations of slave traders, the ruggedness of certain African regions' terrain had a significant positive impact on these regions' development (with Diego Puga).[10]
  • The introduction of the potato within the Columbian exchange may have been responsible for at least a quarter of the population and urbanisation growth observed in the Old World between 1700 and 1900 (with Nancy Qian).[11]
  • In line with Boserup's hypothesis, the introduction and historical use of plough agriculture appears to have given men a comparative advantage and made gender norms less equal, with historical differences in the plough use of immigrants' ancestral communities predicting their attitudes regarding gender equality (with Alberto Alesina and Paola Giuliano).[12]
  • U.S. Food Aid is driven by U.S. objectives and can lead to increased conflict in recipient countries (with Nancy Qian).


  1. ^
  2. ^ Nunn belongs to the top 2% of economic historians on IDEAS/RePEc. Retrieved February 16th, 2018.
  3. ^ Webpage of Nathan Nunn at Harvard University. Retrieved February 16th, 2018.
  4. ^ Curriculum vitae of Nathan Nunn. Retrieved February 16th, 2018.
  5. ^ Nunn, N. (2009). The Importance of History for Economic Development. Annual Review of Economics, 1(1), pp. 65-92.
  6. ^ Ranking of economists at IDEAS/RePEc. Retrieved February 16th, 2018.
  7. ^ Nunn, N. (2007). "Relationship-Specificity, Incomplete Contracts, and the Pattern of Trade". Quarterly Journal of Economics. 122 (2): 569–600. doi:10.1162/qjec.122.2.569. S2CID 4788472.
  8. ^ Nunn, N. (2008). "The Long-term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades" (PDF). Quarterly Journal of Economics. 123 (1): 139–176. doi:10.1162/qjec.2008.123.1.139. S2CID 324199.
  9. ^ Nunn, N.; Wantchekon, L. (2011). "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa" (PDF). American Economic Review. 101 (7): 3221–3252. doi:10.1257/aer.101.7.3221. S2CID 219336147.
  10. ^ Nunn, N.; Puga, D. (2012). "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa". Review of Economics and Statistics. 94 (1): 20–36. doi:10.1162/REST_a_00161. S2CID 16512034.
  11. ^ Nunn, N.; Qian, N. (2011). "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from a Historical Experiment". Quarterly Journal of Economics. 126 (2): 593–650. doi:10.1093/qje/qjr009. PMID 22073408.
  12. ^ Alesina, A.; Giuliano, P.; Nunn, N. (2013). "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough". Quarterly Journal of Economics. 128 (2): 469–530. doi:10.1093/qje/qjt005. hdl:10419/51568.

External linksEdit

  • Webpage of Nathan Nunn at Harvard University
  • Nathan Nunn publications indexed by Google Scholar