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Friends from afar: The Taiping Rebellion, cultural proximity and primary schooling in the Lower Yangzi, 1850–1949

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  • Hao, Yu
  • Xue, Melanie Meng

Abstract

This paper tests the hypothesis that the cultural distance between migrants and natives impedes the provision of public goods. The Taiping Rebellion was a shock that caused groups without a history of shared governance to be relocated to the same region. We use a unique historical dataset of surnames in the Lower Yangzi of China to construct a measure of the cultural distance between migrants and natives (MNCD). We find that a one-standard-deviation increase in the MNCD is associated with a decrease of over 0.19 public primary schools per 10,000 persons in the early twentieth century. The results survive various robustness checks and an instrumental variable analysis that exploits the pre-existing cultural distances between the native and the nearby population. Evidence from the timing of when the MNCD takes effect suggests that the primary mechanism runs from migrant-native cultural distance through quality of collective decision-making to modern primary education.

Suggested Citation

  • Hao, Yu & Xue, Melanie Meng, 2017. "Friends from afar: The Taiping Rebellion, cultural proximity and primary schooling in the Lower Yangzi, 1850–1949," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 44-69.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:63:y:2017:i:c:p:44-69
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2016.12.004
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    Keywords

    Cultural distance; Local public goods; Primary education; Quasi-exogenous migration;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N95 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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