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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.

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  • 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:

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    2. Hollard, Guillaume & Sene, Omar, 2020. "What drives the quality of schools in Africa? Disentangling social capital and ethnic divisions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    3. Hodler, Roland & Valsecchi, Michele & Vesperoni, Alberto, 2021. "Ethnic geography: Measurement and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 200(C).
    4. Desmet, Klaus & Gomes, Joseph Flavian & Ortuño-Ortín, Ignacio, 2020. "The geography of linguistic diversity and the provision of public goods," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    5. Joseph Flavian Gomes, 2020. "The health costs of ethnic distance: evidence from sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 195-226, June.
    6. Samuel Bazzi & Matthew Gudgeon, 2021. "The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 235-266, January.
    7. Liu, Kai & Yang, Jidong & Zou, Hongwei, 2020. "Cultural heterogeneity, social policy, and economic growth in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C).
    8. Crespin-Boucaud, Juliette, 2020. "Interethnic and interfaith marriages in sub-Saharan Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 125(C).
    9. Bommer, Christian & Dreher, Axel & Perez-Alvarez, Marcello, 2022. "Home bias in humanitarian aid: The role of regional favoritism in the allocation of international disaster relief," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 208(C).
    10. Kaplan, Lennart, 2021. ""Reversed favoritism" - Resolving the puzzle of discriminatory taxation in African agriculture," University of Göttingen Working Papers in Economics 416, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    11. Manabu Nose, 2018. "Road to Industrialized Africa: Role of Efficient Factor Market in Firm Growth," IMF Working Papers 2018/184, International Monetary Fund.
    12. Li, Y. & Murshed, S.M. & Papyrakis, E., 2021. "Public capital and income inequality: some empirical evidence," ISS Working Papers - General Series 677, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    13. Christian Bommer & Axel Dreher & Marcello Perez-Alvarez, 2018. "Regional and Ethnic Favoritism in the Allocation of Humanitarian Aid," CESifo Working Paper Series 7038, CESifo.
    14. Boris Gershman & Diego Rivera, 2020. "Measuring Regional Ethnolinguistic Diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Surveys vs. GIS," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 34(Supplemen), pages 40-45.
    15. Gershman, Boris, 2020. "Witchcraft beliefs as a cultural legacy of the Atlantic slave trade: Evidence from two continents," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 122(C).
    16. McNamee, Lachlan, 2019. "Indirect colonial rule and the salience of ethnicity," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 142-156.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    African development; Ethnolinguistic diversity; Public goods provision; Religious diversity; Subnational analysis;
    All these keywords.

    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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