Taxation and educational development: Evidence from British India
This paper measures the effects of public expenditures on literacy in early 20th century British India. Using a new dataset and an instrumental variables strategy, I find that public investments in primary education had positive and statistically significant effects on literacy. A 10 percent increase in 1911 per-capita spending or 44 additional primary schools would have translated into a 2.6Â percentage point increase in 1921 literacy in the population aged 15-20. The findings, however, differ by gender: the IV estimates on spending are statistically significant only for male literacy. India's historical experience thus suggests that building more schools would not have solved the problem of female illiteracy that continues to persist even today.
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