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The Political Economy of African Development. Ethnicity, Nation, and History

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ORDINARY (The Political Economy of African Development. Ethnicity, Nation, and History)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-07-31

This proposal aims to measure, document, and understand the colonial origins of contemporary African inequality with a strong ethnic –and religious- component. The focus is on the nation's interplay with the ethnicity that co-evolve, sometimes violently and sometimes peacefully, across the continent. The proposal consists of three closely related projects, examining (i) educational dynamics and the intergenerational transmission of human capital across countries, regions, ethnic, and religious lines; (ii) the operations, functions, and practices of private concessions and the colonial administration during colonization and their legacy; and (iii) the relations of African ethnic groups with the colonial and the persistence of ethnic power post-independence.
Educational Mobility in Africa. We provide new mappings of the dynamics of education and the intergenerational transmission of human capital across regional, ethnic, and religious lines for many African countries.
a. In Intergenerational Mobility in Africa [Econometrica, 2021] using census data, we examine intergenerational mobility (IM) in educational. First, we map IM across 27 African countries and more than 2800 regions, documenting wide cross-country, especially within-country heterogeneity. A key finding is that of inertia, as differences in the old generation's literacy explain half of the spatial disparities in IM. Second, we characterize IM's geography; colonial investments in railroads and proximity to capitals and the coastline are the most robust correlates. Third, we ask whether the regional differences in mobility reflect spatial sorting or their independent role. To isolate the two, we focus on children whose families moved when they were young. Comparing siblings, looking at moves triggered by displacement shocks, and using historical migrations to predict moving families' destinations, we establish that while selection is considerable, regional exposure effects are at play: an extra year spent in a high-mobility region before the age of 12 (and after 5) significantly raises the likelihood of uneducated parents' children completing primary school. Overall, the evidence suggests that geographic and historical factors laid the seeds for spatial disparities in IM that are cemented by sorting and regions' independent impact.
b. In Religion and Educational Mobility in Africa (NBER WP, December 2020) we offer a comprehensive account of the intergenerational transmission of education across religious groups in Africa, home to some of the world's largest Christian and Muslim communities. First, we use census data from 20 countries to construct new upward and downward religion-specific IM statistics. Christian boys and girls have much higher upward and lower downward mobility than Muslims and Animists. Muslims perform well only in a few countries where they are small minorities. Second, we trace the roots of these disparities. Although family structures differ across faiths, this variation explains a tiny fraction (ca 12%) of the observed IM inequities; inter-religious differences in occupational specialization and urban residence do not play any role, while regional features explain nearly half of the imbalances in educational mobility. Third, we isolate the causal impact of regions from spatial sorting exploiting information on children whose households during childhood. Irrespective of the religious identity, regional exposure effects are present for all children moving before 12. Fourth, we map and characterize the religious IM gaps across thousands of African regions, finding that among numerous regional geographic, economic, and historical features, the district's Muslim share is the most important correlate, and that children adhering to Islam underperform Christians in areas with substantial Muslim communities.
c. In Ethnicity and Opportunity in Africa (ongoing) we investigate the dynamics of educational attainment and the intergenerational transmission of human capital across ethnic groups in Africa, where ethnicity often defines national politics. Using census data covering more than 40 million people in 14 countries post-independence (1960-today), our preliminary findings reveal vast differences in educational dynamics and intergenerational mobility both across and within countries across cultural groups. Ethnic convergence dynamics differ considerably: While previously underprivileged ethnicities have managed to catch up in countries such as Zambia and Botswana, the sizable ethnic, educational gaps at independence have remained stable or even increased in a dozen countries, such as Ethiopia and Mozambique We also find that IM negatively correlates with discrimination in the political arena post-independence, and is higher for groups that historically derived most of their subsistence from agriculture. Overall, we uncover a direct link from the colonial to post-independence ethnic development, showing that ethnic political power played a main role in the persistence of education and ethnic development of the newly independent African states.

Colonial Concessions and Contemporary African Development (ongoing). For the second branch we rely on archival and secondary data sources to study the carving of the largely unexplored at the time continent and its allocation to private concessionary companies that exploited Africa's resources, often relying on forced labor recruitment, coercion, and violence. Through arhival data collection (through an original research in the colonial archives of all European colonial powers), we are currently digitizing hundreds of maps, delineating more than one thousand colonial concessions across more than thirty-five contemporary African countries. We also use secondary sources (books, academic articles, reports) and colonial catalogs to extract information, maps, and supporting material. simultaneously, we collect, process, and digitize data on other colonial interventions such as Christian missions, railroads and paved roads, main markets, administrative capitals, and primary health facilities.
For each country (colony, protectorate):
a. We produce a detailed codebook recording all major concessionary companies alongside digitized maps, their operations (e.g. cotton or palm oil plantations, wild rubber, gold), and practices (e.g. forced labor, collaboration with indigenous community leaders).
b. We provide information on the organization of the colonies and protectorates, including administrative maps and investments, like railroads, schools, and clinics.
c. We are drafting a report reviewing the colonial experience, presenting the main regularities on the role of private concessions.
So far data collection ended and we are currently digitizing the maps (more than 200 maps processed). We have completed the country reports and the codebook with company information for fifteen countries (e.g. Congo Free State and Belgian Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Botswana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana (Gold Coast, Ashanti, and Northern Territories), Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Benin, Gambia, Guinea, Namibia, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia). We have also completed the initial draft for ten countries (e.g. Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Angola, Mali) and have started drafting the country reports for all remaining countries (but South Africa).

Colonial Ethnic Power Relations (ongoing). Under the third branch we compile quantitative measures of ethnicities' status during the colonial period, and then connect post-independence dynamics on ethnic political power to ethnicities' colonial experience to identify the nexus of political and economic power across the continent.
Employing a holistic approach, we compile about 40 new quantitative variables covering dozens of aspects (e.g. whether ethnicities were subjected to discrimination and repression, or whether ethnic leaders collaborated with the colonial administration, military conscription, forced labor).
We compiled new data on ethnic colonial relations for more than fifty groups in seven countries: Benin, Togo, Senegal, Gold Coast-Ashante-Northern Territories, Zambia, Rwanda, and Burundi. We have also initiated codifying ethnic relations in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Namibia.
This project moves the frontier in research to African historical development and political economy. The three key features of our approach are inter-disciplinarity (combining archival research, political science and economics approaches), holistic analysis, and collection, processing, digitization, and analysis of extensive historical data covering almost all Sub-Saharan countries and all colonial periods. Our holistic approach stands in contrast to earlier studies that typically looked in one setting and period.
1. Educational Dynamics and Intergenerational Mobility in Africa.
The first branch of our project advances research on historical persistence and research on educational policies in Africa, both by taking a holistic viewpoint and studying the intergenerational transmission of human capital. Examining human capital's intergenerational transmission allows us to zoom into inertia, opening the black box of persistence. Besides, we are studying educational mobility across many countries, distinguishing across ethnicity and across religious affiliation that appears first-order. Moreover, by documenting considerable differences in educational dynamics across regions and Africans adhering to different faiths, we alert policymakers showing that educational gains have not been equally distributed. Our approach advances over earlier studies that look at the evolution of average differences, often in some countries and settings.
Upon the project completion, we expect:
i. To provide mappings of education's evolution and the intergenerational transmission of human capital across African countries, regions, ethnic, and religious lines. We are in the process of developing a dedicated website, where researchers, media, and the general public will visualize the main patterns and maps, download the data, go over summaries, and more technical material.
ii. A series of academic papers studying the underlying forces behind the large differences in educational dynamics across and within countries, and solve the causal impact of spatial sorting regions.

2. Colonial Concessions and Contemporary African Development.
The second branch revolutionizes research on colonization and historical development, more generally. Taking a comprehensive approach, we record the operations and study the consequences of more than 1200 companies in 40 contemporary countries. Taking a holistic approach is necessary, as there is massive heterogeneity on the colonial experience and their practices; and studying the (almost) universe of concessions allows identifying the mechanisms at play. Although the colonial power mostly “outsourced” governance to private corporations, there is very little research and the scant works focus on a few (hand-picked) companies.
Upon the project completion, we expect three comprehensive datasets covering most of Sub-Saharan Africa:
i. a dataset delineating the boundaries and codifying the practices (e.g. forced labor, road, and railroad investments, oppression) and operations (e.g. gold or silver mining, palm oil, rubber, cotton, sisal) of (almost) all significant private concessions that operated in Sub-Sahara during colonization.
ii. an unprecedented amount of historical maps and data, among others, delineating (i) administrative boundaries, their capital, and other main cities; (ii) Christian missions; (iii) primary (and even secondary) schools; (iv) primary clinics and hospitals; (v) and other data, like processing units, factories, police stations. We will provide exact sources, alongside detailed narratives describing the practices of the colonial administration and concessionary companies (e.g. indirect rule, forced labor).
iii. records of colonial oppression at the yearly frequency using imprisonment data (by prison location and allegation) from colonial records.
With the newly assembled data, we will address some first-order issues, namely:
i. the long-run impact of concessionary companies, distinguishing across their primary operations (mining, plantation agriculture, monopsony rights over local agricultural goods, monopoly over imports, forestry) and practices (forced-labor, oppression, investments in clinics, schools, and road-railroad investments). In contrast to limited earlier research, we also able to study inetia by looking at the evolution of private concessionary capital during the various phases of colonization (Scramble for Africa period, pre-WWI, interwar, decolonization) after independence. Besides, a chief innovation is blending the new historical data with the intergenerational human capital approach (branch (a)), thus documenting the links connecting Africa’s dark colonial past with post-independence human capital accumulation.
ii. the dynamics of concession companies and investments of the colonial state in Congo, a fascinating case during the two quite heterogeneous colonial epochs (Congo Free State, 1885-1908, Belgian Congo, 1908-1960) and over the main post-independence epochs (political crisis at independence, 1960-5, the Zairization period, the First Congo War, and the post-Mobutu era). Our approach stands against earlier research that studies the legacy of a single aspect of the colonial experience, as recorded in one time. We will thus decompress history and shed light on the factors underlying persistence.
iii. the role of swings in commodity prices to colonial violence and oppression, testing a long-lasting conjecture among historians that high prices go handy with oppression.
3. Colonial Ethnic Power Relations.
The third branch documents and studies various aspects of the colonial administration relationship with African indigenous societies and studies the implications of the construction of ethnicity post-independence. While earlier research in economics takes ethnicity as given, effectively taking a primordial approach, Europeans often constructed “ethnicities” to facilitate “indirect rule” and promote “divide and rule” strategies. Besides, while many studies in economics and political science study ethnic-based discrimination and favoritism, and there is little, if any, work on the origins of ethnic inequality in political and economic power during colonization.. The novelty we bring is the use of a multi-country and multi-facet approach studying ethnic relationships with the colonial administration and other ethnic groups.
Upon the project completion, we expect:
i. To provide novel quantitative variables recording various aspects of the relationship between the colonial administration and ethnic groups for about 10-15 Sub-Saharan African countries. Our data will cover (i) cooperation of local chiefs in labor recruitment; (ii) military conscription for WWI and WWII; (iii) ethnic-based significant incidents of violence; (iv) ethnic labor specialization; (v) educational investments. We will also present digitized mappings of the spatial distribution of ethnic groups during colonization, as recorded by historical sources, colonial archives, and secondary research.
ii. a systematic analysis of ethnic power relations during colonization and connecting them to post-independence political and economic power. Thus, the research will allow tracing differences across ethnic lines on political and economic power to the colonial times, providing fresh large-scale quantitative evidence against an overwhelmingly case-study and narrative-based literature.