Working Paper No. 1312

From Gutenberg to Google: The Internet Is Adopted Earlier if Ancestors Had Advanced Information Technology in 1500 AD

Published: December 18, 2019Pages: 45Keywords: Internet; Technology diffusion; Information technology; Intergenerational transmission; Printing pressJEL-codes: O33; D13; D83; J24; N70; Z13

From Gutenberg to Google: The Internet Is Adopted Earlier if Ancestors Had Advanced Information Technology in 1500 AD Martin Ljunge


Individuals with ancestry from countries with advanced information technology in 1500 AD, such as movable type and paper, adopt the internet faster than those with less advanced ancestry.

The analysis illustrates persistence over five centuries in information technology adoption in European and U.S. populations. The results hold when excluding the most and least advanced ancestries, and when accounting for additional deep roots of development.

Historical information technology is a better predictor of internet adoption than current development. A machine learning procedure supports the findings. Human capital is a plausible channel as 1500 AD information technology predicts early 20th century school enrollment, which predicts 21st century internet adoption. A three-stage model including human capital around 1990, yields similar results.

Martin Ljunge

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Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union and the Return of the Nation State

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This book explores the complex and ever-changing relationship between the European Union and its member states. The recent surge in tension in this relationship has been prompted by the actions of some member state governments as they question fundamental EU values and principles and refuse to implement common decisions seemingly on the basis of narrowly defined national interests.

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