Abstract: This research explores the emergence and prevalence of economic specialization and trade in pre-modern societies. It advances the hypothesis, and establishes empirically that population diversity had a positive causal effect on economic specialization and trade. Based on a novel ethnic level dataset combining geocoded ethnographic, linguistic and genetic data, this research exploits the exogenous variation in population diversity generated by the “Out-of-Africa” migration of anatomically modern humans to causally establish that higher levels of population diversity were conducive to economic specialization and the emergence of trade-related institutions that, in turn, translated into pre-modern era differences in comparative development. Additionally, this research provides suggestive evidence that regions historically inhabited by pre-modern societies with high levels of economic specialization have higher levels of contemporary occupational heterogeneity, economic complexity and development.
Keywords: Economic Specialization, Division of Labor, Trade, Comparative Development, Economic Development, Population Diversity, Population Heterogeneity, Genetic Diversity.