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Can autocracy promote literacy? Evidence from a cultural alignment success story

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  • Palma, Nuno
  • Reis, Jaime

Abstract

Do countries with less democratic forms of government necessarily have lower literacy rates as a consequence? Using a random sample of more than 9000 individuals from military archives in 20th century Portugal, we show that 20-year old males were 50% more likely to end up literate under a nondemocratic regime than under a more democratic one. Our results are robust to controlling for a host of factors including economic growth, the disease environment, and regional fixed effects. We argue for a political economy and cultural explanation for the relative success of the authoritarian regime in promoting basic education.

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  • Palma, Nuno & Reis, Jaime, 2021. "Can autocracy promote literacy? Evidence from a cultural alignment success story," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 186(C), pages 412-436.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:186:y:2021:i:c:p:412-436
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2021.02.011
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    Cited by:

    1. Cermeño, Alexandra & Palma, Nuno Pedro G. & Pistola, Renato, 2021. "Stunting and wasting in a growing economy: biological living standards in Portugal during the Twentieth Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 16617, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Tomas Cvrcek & Miroslav Zajicek, 2019. "The rise of public schooling in nineteenth-century Imperial Austria: Who gained and who paid?," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 13(3), pages 367-403, September.
    3. Cermeño, Alexandra L. & Palma, Nuno & Pistola, Renato, 2021. "Stunting and wasting in a growing economy:biological living standards in Portugal,1924-1994," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 585, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    4. Cvrcek, Tomas & Zajicek, Miroslav, 2019. "The making of a liberal education: Political economy of the Austrian school reform, 1865 – 1880," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 1-1.
    5. Kedrosky, Davis & Palma, Nuno, 2021. "The Cross of Gold: Brazilian Treasure and the Decline of Portugal," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 574, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Anthropometrics; Economic history of education; Public schooling provision; Political economy of development;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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