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On the Road to Heaven: Taxation, Conversions, and the Coptic-Muslim Socioeconomic Gap in Medieval Egypt

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  • Saleh, Mohamed

Abstract

Self-selection of converts is an under-studied explanation of inter-religion socioeconomic status (SES) differences. Inspired by this conjecture, I trace the Coptic-Muslim SES gap in Egypt to self-selection-on-SES during Egypt’s conversion from Coptic Christianity to Islam. Selection was driven by a poll tax on non-Muslims, imposed from 641 until 1856, which induced poorer Copts to convert to Islam leading Copts to shrink into a better-off minority. Using novel data sources, I document that high-tax districts in 641–1100 had in 1848–1868 relatively fewer Copts, but greater SES differentials. Group restrictions on apprenticeships and schooling led the initial selection to perpetuate.

Suggested Citation

  • Saleh, Mohamed, 2018. "On the Road to Heaven: Taxation, Conversions, and the Coptic-Muslim Socioeconomic Gap in Medieval Egypt," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 78(2), pages 394-434, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:78:y:2018:i:02:p:394-434_00
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Converting for tax reasons
      by Chris Colvin in NEP-HIS blog on 2013-11-06 02:41:31

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    Cited by:

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    2. Sascha O. Becker & Jared Rubin & Ludger Woessmann, 2020. "Religion in Economic History: A Survey," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 480, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    3. Alberto Bisin & Jared Rubin & Avner Seror & Thierry Verdier & Thierry Verdier, 2021. "Culture, Institutions & the Long Divergence," CESifo Working Paper Series 8900, CESifo.
    4. Mohamed Saleh & Jean Tirole, 2021. "Taxing Identity: Theory and Evidence From Early Islam," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 89(4), pages 1881-1919, July.
    5. Saleh, Mohamed & Tirole, Jean, 2019. "Taxing Identity: Theory and Evidence from Early Islam," CEPR Discussion Papers 13705, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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