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Customary Norms, Inheritance, and Human Capital: Evidence from a Reform of the Matrilineal System in Ghana

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  • Eliana La Ferrara
  • Annamaria Milazzo

Abstract

We study the role of traditional norms in land allocation and human capital investment. We exploit a policy experiment in Ghana that increased the land that children from matrilineal groups could inherit from their fathers. Boys exposed to the reform received 0.9 less years of education—an effect driven by landed households, for whom the reform was binding. We find no effect for girls, whose inheritance was de facto unaffected. These patterns suggest that before the reform matrilineal groups invested more in education than they would if unconstrained, to substitute for land inheritance, underscoring the importance of cultural norms.

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  • Eliana La Ferrara & Annamaria Milazzo, 2017. "Customary Norms, Inheritance, and Human Capital: Evidence from a Reform of the Matrilineal System in Ghana," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 166-185, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:166-85
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.20150342
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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