The Long Shadow of Economic Geography: Political Inequality and Public Goods Provision in the Original 13 US States

A large and fruitful literature has focused on the impact of colonial legacies on long-term development. Yet the role of political transmission mechanisms in this process remains ambiguous. This paper analyzes one such transmission mechanism, namely malapportionment of the representation in the legislatures of the original thirteen British North-American colonies. Their joint independence created a unique juncture in which postcolonial elites simultaneously chose the legislative and electoral institutions under which they would operate. We show that the initial choice of apportionment in the state legislatures is largely a function of economic geography, that such a choice generated persistent differences in representation patterns within states (political inequality), and that the latter shaped long run public goods provision and development outcomes.