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Ethnic Inequality: Theory and Evidence from Formal Education in Nigeria

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  • Pritha Dev
  • Blessing U. Mberu
  • Roland Pongou

Abstract

We study the causes of inequality in human capital accumulation across ethnic and religious groups. An overlapping generations model in which agents decide how much time to invest in human capital versus ethnic capital shows that the demand for human capital is affected positively by parental and group's older cohort human capital and negatively by group size. Two ex ante identical groups may diverge in human capital accumulation, with the divergence mostly occurring among their low-ability members. Furthermore, group and ethnic fragmentation increases the demand for human capital. We validate these predictions using household data from Nigeria, where ethnicity and religion are the primary identity cleavages. We document persistent ethnic and religious inequality in educational attainment. Members of ethnic groups that historically converted to Christianity outperform those whose ancestors converted to Islam. Consistent with theory, there is little difference between the high-ability members of these groups, but low-ability members of historically Muslim groups choose Koranic education as an alternative to formal education, even when formal education is free. Moreover, minorities and more religiously fragmented ethnic groups fare better, and local ethnic fragmentation increases the demand for formal education. Our analysis sheds light on the political context that underlies the recent violent opposition to "Western education" in this country.

Suggested Citation

  • Pritha Dev & Blessing U. Mberu & Roland Pongou, 2016. "Ethnic Inequality: Theory and Evidence from Formal Education in Nigeria," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(4), pages 603-660.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ecdecc:doi:10.1086/686739
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    Cited by:

    1. Sylvain Dessy & Setou Diarra & Roland Pongou, 2017. "Underage Brides and Grooms’ Education," Working Papers 1704E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
    2. Godspower-Akpomiemie, Euphemia & Ojah, Kalu, 2018. "Money laundering, Tax havens, Transparency and Board of Directors of Banks," MPRA Paper 89550, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. repec:taf:jdevst:v:54:y:2018:i:10:p:1891-1911 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:injoed:v:62:y:2018:i:c:p:47-61 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Amanda Lenhardt & Ella Page & Moizza Binat Sarwar & Andrew Shepherd, 2017. "Anti-discrimination measures in education: A comparative policy analysis," WIDER Working Paper Series 078, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. Sylvain Dessy, Setou Diarra, Roland Pongou & Setou Diarra & Roland Pongou, 2016. "Adolescent Brides and Grooms' Education: Theory and Evidence," Cahiers de recherche 1610, Centre de recherche sur les risques, les enjeux économiques, et les politiques publiques.
    7. James Fenske & Igor Zurimendi, 2017. "Oil and ethnic inequality in Nigeria," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 397-420, December.
    8. Okoye, Dozie & Pongou, Roland & Yokossi, Tite, 2017. "On the Dispensability of New Transportation Technologies: Evidence from the Heterogeneous Impact of Railroads in Nigeria," MPRA Paper 77293, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Belinda Archibong, 2016. "Historical origins of persistent inequality in Nigeria," WIDER Working Paper Series 161, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    10. Dessy, Sylvain & Diarra, Setou & Pongou, Roland, 2017. "Underage Brides and Grooms' Education," MPRA Paper 77326, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. repec:taf:oxdevs:v:46:y:2018:i:3:p:325-347 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Masahiro Shoji, 2018. "Religious Fractionalisation and Crimes in Disaster-Affected Communities: Survey Evidence from Bangladesh," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 54(10), pages 1891-1911, October.
    13. Dozie Okoye & Roland Pongou & Tite Yokossi, 2016. "On the Dispensability of New Transportation Technologies : Evidence from Colonial Railroads in Nigeria," Working Papers 1620E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
    14. repec:eee:injoed:v:66:y:2019:i:c:p:214-222 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • C0 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - General
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • D5 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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