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The Economics of Missionary Expansion: Evidence from Africa and Implications for Development

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  • Remi Jedwab
  • Felix Meier zu Selhausen
  • Alexander Moradi

Abstract

One of the most powerful cultural transformations in modern history has been the dramatic expansion of Christianity outside Europe. Recent, yet extensive, literature uses Christian missions established during colonial times as a source of exogenous variation to study the long-term effects of religion, human capital and culture in Africa, the Americas and Asia. We argue that the endogeneity of missionary expansion may be underestimated, thus questioning the link between missions and economic development. Using annual panel data on missions from 1751 to 1932 in Ghana as well as cross-sectional data on missions for 43 sub-Saharan African countries in 1900 and 1924, we show that: (i) locational decisions were driven by economic factors, as missionaries went to healthier, safer, and more accessible and developed areas, privileging the best locations first; (ii) these factors may spuriously explain why locations with past missions are more developed today, especially as most studies rely on historical mission atlases that tend to only report the best mission locations. Our study identifies factors behind the spatial diffusion of religion. It also highlights the risks of omission and endogenous measurement error biases when using historical data and events for identification.

Suggested Citation

  • Remi Jedwab & Felix Meier zu Selhausen & Alexander Moradi, 2018. "The Economics of Missionary Expansion: Evidence from Africa and Implications for Development," CSAE Working Paper Series 2018-07, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2018-07
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Meier zu Selhausen, Felix, 2019. "Missions, Education and Conversion in Colonial Africa," African Economic History Working Paper 48/2019, African Economic History Network.
    2. Becker, Sascha O. & Rubin, Jared & Woessmann, Ludger, 2020. "Religion in Economic History : A Survey," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1273, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    3. Alesina, Alberto F & Hohmann, Sebastian & Michalopoulos, Stelios & Papaioannou, Elias, 2019. "Intergenerational Mobility in Africa," CEPR Discussion Papers 13497, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Julia Cage & Valeria Rueda, 2017. "Sex and the Mission: The Conflicting Effects of Early Christian Investments on the HIV Epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa," Sciences Po publications 12192, Sciences Po.
    5. Nikolova, Elena & Polansky, Jakub, 2020. "Conversionary Protestants do not cause democracy," GLO Discussion Paper Series 480, Global Labor Organization (GLO).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Path Dependence; Economic Development; Economics of Religion; Human Capital; Compression of History; Measurement Error; Christianity; Colonization; Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • F54 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Colonialism; Imperialism; Postcolonialism
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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