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Subnational diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights from a new dataset

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  • Gershman, Boris
  • Rivera, Diego

Abstract

This paper presents a new dataset on subnational ethnolinguistic and religious diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa covering 36 countries and almost 400 first-level administrative units. We use population censuses and large-scale household surveys to compile detailed data on the ethnolinguistic composition of each region and match all reported ethnicities to Ethnologue, a comprehensive catalog of world languages. This matching allows us to standardize the notion of an ethnolinguistic group and account for relatedness between language pairs, a correlate of shared history and culture, when calculating diversity indices. Exploiting within-country variation provided by our new dataset, we find that local public goods provision, as reflected in metrics of education, health, and electricity access, is negatively related to ethnolinguistic diversity, but only if the underlying basic languages are first aggregated into larger families or if linguistic distances between groups are taken into consideration. In other words, only deep-rooted diversity, based on cleavages formed in the distant past, is strongly inversely associated with a range of regional development indicators. Furthermore, we show that subnational diversity has been remarkably persistent over the past two-three decades implying that population sorting in the short to medium run is unlikely to bias our main findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Gershman, Boris & Rivera, Diego, 2018. "Subnational diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights from a new dataset," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 231-263.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:133:y:2018:i:c:p:231-263
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2018.01.003
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    Cited by:

    1. Hodler, Roland & Valsecchi, Michele & Vesperoni, Alberto, 2017. "Ethnic Geography: Measurement and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 12378, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Joseph Flavian Gomes & Klaus Desmet & Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín, 2016. "The Geography of Linguistic Diversity and the Provision of Public Goods," NCID Working Papers 07/2016, Navarra Center for International Development, University of Navarra.
    3. Gomes, Joseph, 2014. "The health costs of ethnic distance: evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa," ISER Working Paper Series 2014-33, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    4. Samuel Bazzi & Matthew Gudgeon, 2017. "The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2018-005, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    5. Christian Bommer & Axel Dreher & Marcello Perez-Alvarez, 2018. "Regional and Ethnic Favoritism in the Allocation of Humanitarian Aid," CESifo Working Paper Series 7038, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Boris Gershman & Diego Rivera, 2016. "Measuring Regional Ethnolinguistic Diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Surveys vs. GIS," Working Papers 2016-05, American University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    African development; Ethnolinguistic diversity; Public goods provision; Religious diversity; Subnational analysis;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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