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Questionable Inference on the Power of Pre-Colonial Institutions in Africa

Author

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  • Denis Cogneau

    (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics, IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement)

  • Yannick Dupraz

    (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics)

Abstract

In their paper "Pre-Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development" [Econometrica 81(1): 113-152], Stelios Michalopoulos and Elias Papaioannou claim that they document a strong relationship between pre-colonial political centralization and regional development, by combining Murdock's ethnographic atlas (1967) with light density at night measures at the local level. We argue that their estimates do not properly take into account population effects. Among lowly populated areas, luminosity is dominated by noise, so that with linear specifications the coefficient of population density is biased downwards. We reveal that the identification of the effect of ethnic centralization very much relies on these areas. We implement a variety of models where the effect of population density is non-linear, and/or where the bounded or truncated nature of luminosity is taken into account. We conclude that the impact of ethnic-level political centralization on development is all contained in its long-term correlation with population density. We also abstract from the luminosity-population nexus by analyzing survey data for 33 countries. We show that individual-level outcomes like access to utilities, education, asset ownership etc. are not correlated with ethnic-level political centralization.

Suggested Citation

  • Denis Cogneau & Yannick Dupraz, 2014. "Questionable Inference on the Power of Pre-Colonial Institutions in Africa," Working Papers halshs-01018548, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:halshs-01018548
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01018548
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nathan Nunn, 2008. "The Long-term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 139-176.
    2. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2012. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 20-36, February.
    3. James Fenske, 2013. "Does Land Abundance Explain African Institutions?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(12), pages 1363-1390, December.
    4. Gareth Austin, 2008. "Resources, techniques, and strategies south of the Sahara: revising the factor endowments perspective on African economic development, 1500–20001," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 61(3), pages 587-624, August.
    5. A. Colin Cameron & Jonah B. Gelbach & Douglas L. Miller, 2011. "Robust Inference With Multiway Clustering," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(2), pages 238-249, April.
    6. Austin, Gareth, 2008. "Resources, techniques and strategies south of the Sahara: revising the factor endowments perspective on African economic development, 1500-2000," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 23209, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Lewbel, Arthur & Schennach, Susanne M., 2007. "A simple ordered data estimator for inverse density weighted expectations," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 136(1), pages 189-211, January.
    8. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
    9. Nathan Nunn & Leonard Wantchekon, 2011. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3221-3252, December.
    10. Lewbel, Arthur, 2000. "Semiparametric qualitative response model estimation with unknown heteroscedasticity or instrumental variables," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 145-177, July.
    11. Doll, Christopher N.H. & Muller, Jan-Peter & Morley, Jeremy G., 2006. "Mapping regional economic activity from night-time light satellite imagery," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 75-92, April.
    12. Joshua D. Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2009. "Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 8769, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Denis Cogneau, 2016. "History, Data and Economics for Africa: Can We Get Them Less Wrong?: Reply to Morten Jerven's ‘Trapped between tragedies and miracles: Misunderstanding African economic growth’," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 34(6), pages 895-899, November.
    2. Mamo, Nemera & Bhattacharyya, Sambit & Moradi, Alexander, 2019. "Intensive and extensive margins of mining and development: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 28-49.
    3. Dreher, Axel & Fuchs, Andreas & Hodler, Roland & Parks, Bradley C. & Raschky, Paul A. & Tierney, Michael J., 2015. "Aid on Demand: African Leaders and the Geography of China's Foreign Assistance," CEPR Discussion Papers 10704, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Christophe Muller & Pierre Pecher, 2018. "Transborder Ethnic Kin and Local Prosperity: Evidence form Night-Time Light Intensity in Africa," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2018006, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    5. repec:eee:jcecon:v:45:y:2017:i:3:p:622-643 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:wdevel:v:121:y:2019:i:c:p:123-140 is not listed on IDEAS

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