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Customary Norms, Inheritance, and Human Capital: Evidence from a Reform of the Matrilineal System in Ghana

Listed author(s):
  • La Ferrara, Eliana
  • Milazzo, Annamaria

This paper studies the effects of descent rules on human capital accumulation. We exploit a policy experiment in Ghana that introduced minimum quotas for the land that parents should devolve on their children. This policy differentially affected ethnic groups depending on their descent rules: the matrilineal Akan saw a reduction in the share of land going to the matriclan and an increase in the land going to male children (who could not inherit from their own fathers before the reform). Patrilineal groups were instead less affected because sons could already inherit from fathers before the reform. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, across cohorts and ethnic groups, we estimate the impact of the reform on educational attainment. We find that Akan boys exposed to the reform received on average 0.9 less years of education, a 10 percent reduction. The effect is driven by landed households, for whom the reform did effectively bind, while no effect is found for non-landed households. This evidence is consistent with the fact that before the reform matrilineal groups in Ghana "over-invested" in education to substitute for land inheritance. Our findings suggest that in the presence of customary norms, land reform and the individualization of land rights may have implications that go beyond the agricultural sector and affect human capital accumulation in the long run.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 10159.

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Date of creation: Sep 2014
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10159
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  1. Esther Duflo, 2001. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of School Construction in Indonesia: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 795-813, September.
  2. Richard Hornbeck, 2010. "Barbed Wire: Property Rights and Agricultural Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 767-810.
  3. Quisumbing, Agnes R. & Otsuka, Keijiro, 2001. "Land Inheritance and Schooling in Matrilineal Societies: Evidence from Sumatra," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(12), pages 2093-2110, December.
  4. Pamela Jakiela & Owen Ozier, 2016. "Does Africa Need a Rotten Kin Theorem? Experimental Evidence from Village Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(1), pages 231-268.
  5. Goetghebuer, Tatiana & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2010. "Inheritance patterns in migration-prone communities of the Peruvian Highlands," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1), pages 71-87, September.
  6. Carranza, Eliana, 2012. "Islamic inheritance law, son preference and fertility behavior of Muslim couples in Indonesia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5972, The World Bank.
  7. Victor Lavy & Alexander Zablotsky, 2011. "Mother's Schooling and Fertility under Low Female Labor Force Participation: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 16856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. de Janvry, Alain & Gordillo, Gustavo & Sadoulet, Elisabeth & Platteau, Jean-Philippe (ed.), 2001. "Access to Land, Rural Poverty, and Public Action," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199242177.
  9. Klaus Deininger & Aparajita Goyal & Hari Nagarajan, 2013. "Women's Inheritance Rights and Intergenerational Transmission of Resources in India," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 114-141.
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