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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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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    1. Pamela Jakiela & Owen Ozier, 2016. "Does Africa Need a Rotten Kin Theorem? Experimental Evidence from Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(1), pages 231-268.
    2. Quisumbing, Agnes R. & Otsuka, Keijiro, 2001. "Land Inheritance and Schooling in Matrilineal Societies: Evidence from Sumatra," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(12), pages 2093-2110, December.
    3. de Janvry, Alain & Gordillo, Gustavo & Sadoulet, Elisabeth & Platteau, Jean-Philippe (ed.), 2001. "Access to Land, Rural Poverty, and Public Action," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199242177.
    4. Goetghebuer, Tatiana & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2010. "Inheritance patterns in migration-prone communities of the Peruvian Highlands," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1), pages 71-87, September.
    5. Esther Duflo, 2001. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of School Construction in Indonesia: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 795-813, September.
    6. Richard Hornbeck, 2010. "Barbed Wire: Property Rights and Agricultural Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 767-810.
    7. Carranza, Eliana, 2012. "Islamic inheritance law, son preference and fertility behavior of Muslim couples in Indonesia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5972, The World Bank.
    8. Victor Lavy & Alexander Zablotsky, 2011. "Mother's Schooling and Fertility under Low Female Labor Force Participation: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 16856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Klaus Deininger & Aparajita Goyal & Hari Nagarajan, 2013. "Women's Inheritance Rights and Intergenerational Transmission of Resources in India," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 114-141.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Lambrecht, Isabel, 2016. "“As a husband I will love, lead, and provide:†Gendered access to land in Ghana:," IFPRI discussion papers 1514, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Bau, Natalie, 2019. "Can Policy Change Culture? Government Pension Plans and Traditional Kinship Practices," CEPR Discussion Papers 13486, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Lucia Corno & Nicole Hildebrandt & Alessandra Voena, 2017. "Age of Marriage, Weather Shocks, and the Direction of Marriage Payments," NBER Working Papers 23604, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Nava Ashraf & Natalie Bau & Nathan Nunn & Alessandra Voena, 2016. "Bride Price and Female Education," NBER Working Papers 22417, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. A. Alesina & P. Giuliano., 2016. "Culture and Institutions," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 11.
    6. Lambert, Sylvie & Ravallion, Martin & van de Walle, Dominique, 2014. "Intergenerational mobility and interpersonal inequality in an African economy," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 327-344.
    7. Lambrecht, Isabel & Asare, Sarah, 2015. "Smallholders and land tenure in Ghana: Aligning context, empirics, and policy:," IFPRI discussion papers 1492, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    8. Alessandra Voena & Lucia Corno, 2015. "Selling daughters: age at marriage, income shocks and bride price tradition," 2015 Meeting Papers 1089, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Roy, Sanchari, 2015. "Empowering women? Inheritance rights, female education and dowry payments in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 233-251.
    10. Ghebru, Hosaena & Khan, Huma & Lambrecht, Isabel, 2016. "Perceived land tenure security and rural transformation: Empirical evidence from Ghana:," IFPRI discussion papers 1545, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    11. Guirkinger, Catherine & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2019. "The dynamics of family systems: lessons from past and present times," CEPR Discussion Papers 13570, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    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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