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Divide and Rule or the Rule of the Divided? Evidence from Africa

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  • Stelios Michalopoulos

    (Tufts University and the Institute for Advanced Study)

  • Elias Papaioannou

    (Dartmouth College, NBER and CEPR)

Abstract

We investigate jointly the importance of contemporary country-level institutional structures and local ethnic-specific pre-colonial institutions in shaping comparative regional development in Africa. We utilize information on the spatial distribution of African ethnicities before colonization and regional variation in contemporary economic performance, as proxied by satellite light density at night. We exploit the fact that political boundaries across the African landscape partitioned ethnic groups in different countries subjecting identical cultures to different country-level institutions. Our regression discontinuity estimates reveal that differences in countrywide institutional arrangements across the border do not explain differences in economic performance within ethnic groups. In contrast, we document a strong association between pre-colonial ethnic institutional traits and contemporary regional development. While this correlation does not necessarily identify a causal relationship, this result obtains conditional on country fixed-effects, controlling for other ethnic traits and when we focus on pairs of contiguous ethnic homelands.

Suggested Citation

  • Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2011. "Divide and Rule or the Rule of the Divided? Evidence from Africa," Economics Working Papers 0099, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:ads:wpaper:0099
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    Cited by:

    1. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2016. "War and Relatedness," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(5), pages 925-939, December.
    2. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2013. "How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(2), pages 325-369, June.
    3. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2016. "The Long-Run Effects of the Scramble for Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(7), pages 1802-1848, July.
    4. Dimico, Arcangelo, 2013. "Size Matters: The Effect of the Scramble for Africa on Informal Institutions and Development," MPRA Paper 54550, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 18 Mar 2014.
    5. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2007. "Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Diffusion and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," CEPR Discussion Papers 6444, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Bauer, Vincent & Platas, Melina R. & Weinstein, Jeremy M., 2022. "Legacies of Islamic Rule in Africa: Colonial Responses and Contemporary Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 152(C).
    7. James Fenske, 2014. "Ecology, Trade, And States In Pre-Colonial Africa," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 612-640, June.
    8. Osafo-Kwaako, Philip & Robinson, James A., 2013. "Political centralization in pre-colonial Africa," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 6-21.
    9. Arcangelo Dimico, 2017. "Size Matters: The Effect of the Size of Ethnic Groups on Development," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 79(3), pages 291-318, June.
    10. Elias Papaioannou, 2014. "National Institutions and Subnational Development in Africa," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 151-213.
    11. Heger, Martin Philipp & Neumayer, Eric, 2019. "The impact of the Indian Ocean tsunami on Aceh’s long-term economic growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(C).
    12. Bertocchi, Graziella, 2011. "Growth, Colonization, and Institutional Development: In and Out of Africa," IZA Discussion Papers 5856, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Talea Bernatzki & Matthias Busse & Ruth Hoekstra, 2022. "Promoting Rwanda’s business environment: Impact of reforms and drivers of change," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 40(2), March.
    14. Cogneau, Denis & Moradi, Alexander, 2014. "Borders That Divide: Education and Religion in Ghana and Togo Since Colonial Times," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 694-729, September.
    15. Jason Collins & Boris Baer & Ernst Juerg Weber, 2016. "Evolutionary Biology in Economics: A Review," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 92(297), pages 291-312, June.
    16. Alberto Alesina & Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2016. "Ethnic Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(2), pages 428-488.
    17. World Bank, 2012. "Africa Can Help Feed Africa," World Bank Publications - Reports 26078, The World Bank Group.
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    19. Elias Papaioannou, 2014. "National Institutions and Subnational Development in Africa," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 151-213.
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    21. Besley, Timothy & Leight, Jessica & Pande, Rohini & Rao, Vijayendra, 2016. "Long-run impacts of land regulation: Evidence from tenancy reform in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 72-87.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Africa; Borders; Ethnicities; Development; Institutions; Regression Discontinuity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • N17 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Africa; Oceania
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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