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Subnational Diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights from a New Dataset

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  • Boris Gershman
  • Diego Rivera

Abstract

This paper presents a new dataset on subnational ethnolinguistic diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa covering 36 countries and almost 400 first-level administrative units. We compile detailed data on the ethnolinguistic composition of each region using population censuses and large-scale household surveys and match all reported ethnicities to Ethnologue, the most complete classifier of world languages. This matching allows to standardize the notion of an ethnolinguistic group and account for the relatedness between language pairs when calculating diversity indices. We exploit this high-quality dataset to investigate the connection between diversity, as captured by fractionalization and polarization indices, and development indicators at the subnational level. Educational and health outcomes, electricity access, and nighttime luminosity are all negatively related to diversity, even after controlling for country fixed effects and a rich set of regional characteristics, but only if the underlying ethnolinguistic groups are sufficiently aggregated into more basic language families or if linguistic similarities between them are taken into account. In other words, only deep-rooted diversity based on cleavages formed in the distant past is strongly inversely associated with regional development. Furthermore, we show that subnational diversity is remarkably persistent over time implying that reverse causality is unlikely to bias our main findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Boris Gershman & Diego Rivera, 2016. "Subnational Diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights from a New Dataset," Working Papers 2016-07, American University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:amu:wpaper:2016-07
    DOI: 10.17606/1k14-rb32
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.17606/1k14-rb32
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    1. Roland Hodler & Michele Valsecchi & Alberto Vesperoni, 2017. "Ethnic Geography: Measurement and Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 6720, CESifo.
    2. Samuel Bazzi & Matthew Gudgeon, 2017. "The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2018-005, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    3. Liu, Kai & Yang, Jidong & Zou, Hongwei, 2020. "Cultural heterogeneity, social policy, and economic growth in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C).
    4. Crespin-Boucaud, Juliette, 2020. "Interethnic and interfaith marriages in sub-Saharan Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 125(C).
    5. Hollard, Guillaume & Sene, Omar, 2020. "What drives the quality of schools in Africa? Disentangling social capital and ethnic divisions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    6. Desmet, Klaus & Gomes, Joseph Flavian & Ortuño-Ortín, Ignacio, 2020. "The geography of linguistic diversity and the provision of public goods," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    7. Boris Gershman & Diego Rivera, 2020. "Measuring Regional Ethnolinguistic Diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Surveys vs. GIS," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 34(Supplemen), pages 40-45.
    8. Joseph Flavian Gomes, 2020. "The health costs of ethnic distance: evidence from sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 195-226, June.
    9. Christian Bommer & Axel Dreher & Marcello Perez-Alvarez, "undated". "Home bias in humanitarian aid: The role of regional favoritism in the allocation of international disaster relief," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 266, Courant Research Centre PEG.
    10. Gershman, Boris, 2020. "Witchcraft beliefs as a cultural legacy of the Atlantic slave trade: Evidence from two continents," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 122(C).
    11. McNamee, Lachlan, 2019. "Indirect colonial rule and the salience of ethnicity," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 142-156.
    12. Christian Bommer & Axel Dreher & Marcello Perez-Alvarez, 2018. "Regional and Ethnic Favoritism in the Allocation of Humanitarian Aid," CESifo Working Paper Series 7038, CESifo.
    13. Manabu Nose, 2018. "Road to Industrialized Africa: Role of Efficient Factor Market in Firm Growth," IMF Working Papers 18/184, International Monetary Fund.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    African development; ethnolinguistic diversity; public goods; subnational analysis;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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