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 in a Changing World Order

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This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

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