Taboos, agriculture and poverty
Although cultural practices often have important consequences for household consumption and economic performance, they are seldom studied by economists. To fill this gap we study the impact of taboos on agriculture and poverty. Madagascar is a good case study for this purpose given the prevalence of taboos in everyday life and the variation in cultural practices across the country. We examine the relationship between observance of work taboos (fady days) and agriculture and consumption. Using cross-sectional data from a national household survey, we find that 18% of agricultural households have two or more fady days per week and that an extra fady day is associated with 6 percent lower per capita consumption level and 5 percent lower rice productivity - controlling for human, ethnic and physical characteristics. To deal with the possible endogeneity of fady days, we present instrumental variable estimates as well as heterogeneous effect regressions using village fixed effects. We find that smaller households and those with less education employ less labor in villages with more fady days.
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