IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/igi/igierp/594.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Income Inequality in Colonial Africa: Building Social Tables for Pre-Independence Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, and Senegal

Author

Listed:
  • Guido Alfani
  • Federico Tadei

Abstract

Today, income inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa is exceptionally high. In this paper, we study whether present-day inequality can be traced back to the colonial period by reconstructing income distributions in a sample of representative colonies. To do so, we use data from colonial records to build new social tables for French colonies in West and Central Africa and we combine them with available information on British colonies in East and Southern Africa. We find that inequality in Africa is not a recent phenomenon. Income inequality was extremely high during the colonial period, in particular because of the huge income differential between Africans and European settlers. Nevertheless, it tended to reduce over time and the post-colonial period is characterized by much lower inequality. Interestingly, the decline of inequality is not necessarily a consequence of independence: the trends toward reduction started under colonial rule. JEL Classification: N17; O43 Keywords: Africa, Inequality, Income Distribution, Development, Extractive Institutions

Suggested Citation

  • Guido Alfani & Federico Tadei, 2017. "Income Inequality in Colonial Africa: Building Social Tables for Pre-Independence Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, and Senegal," Working Papers 594, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:594
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://repec.unibocconi.it/igier/igi/wp/2017/594.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Elise Huillery, 2013. "The Black Man's Burden: The Cost of Colonization of French West Africa," Post-Print hal-01024752, HAL.
    2. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4320 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Acemoglu, Daron & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James A., 2005. "Institutions as a Fundamental Cause of Long-Run Growth," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 6, pages 385-472, Elsevier.
    4. Branko Milanovic, 2006. "An Estimate Of Average Income And Inequality In Byzantium Around Year 1000," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 52(3), pages 449-470, September.
    5. Osamu Saito, 2015. "Growth and inequality in the great and little divergence debate: a Japanese perspective," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(2), pages 399-419, May.
    6. Jutta Bolt & Jan Luiten Zanden, 2014. "The Maddison Project: collaborative research on historical national accounts," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(3), pages 627-651, August.
    7. Frankema, Ewout & Waijenburg, Marlous Van, 2012. "Structural Impediments to African Growth? New Evidence from Real Wages in British Africa, 1880–1965," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(4), pages 895-926, December.
    8. Johan Fourie & Dieter von Fintel, 2010. "A History with Evidence: Income inequality in the Dutch Cape Colony," Working Papers 23/2010, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    9. Milanovic, Branko, 2013. "The inequality possibility frontier : extensions and new applications," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6449, The World Bank.
    10. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2012. "Output Per Head In Pre-Independence Africa: Quantitative Conjectures," Economic History of Developing Regions, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(2), pages 1-36, December.
    11. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1984. "Inequality Decomposition by Population Subgroups," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(6), pages 1369-1385, November.
    12. Guido Alfani & Francesco Ammannati, 2017. "Long‐term trends in economic inequality: the case of the Florentine state, c. 1300–1800," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1072-1102, November.
    13. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    14. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro, 2013. "Human development in Africa: A long-run perspective," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 179-204.
    15. Guido Alfani, 2017. "The rich in historical perspective: evidence for preindustrial Europe (ca. 1300–1800)," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(3), pages 321-348, September.
    16. Denis Cogneau & Thomas Bossuroy & Philippe De Vreyer & Charlotte Guénard & Victor Hiller & Phillippe Leite & Sandrine Mesplé-Somps & Laure Pasquier-Doumer & Constance Torelli, 2006. "Inequalities and equity in Africa," Working Papers DT/2006/11, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    17. Mr. Alexei P Kireyev, 2013. "Inclusive Growth and Inequality in Senegal," IMF Working Papers 2013/215, International Monetary Fund.
    18. Markus Goldstein & Christopher Udry, 2008. "The Profits of Power: Land Rights and Agricultural Investment in Ghana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 981-1022, December.
    19. Milanovic, Branko, 2016. "Towards an explanation of inequality in pre-modern societies:the role of colonies and high population density," MPRA Paper 74877, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. 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.
    21. Denis Cogneau & Sandrine Mesplé-Somps, 2008. "Inequality of Opportunity for Income in Five Countries of Africa," Working Papers DT/2008/04, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    22. Santiago-Caballero, Carlos, 2011. "Income inequality in central Spain, 1690-1800," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 83-96, January.
    23. Peter Hoeller & Isabelle Joumard & Mauro Pisu & Debbie Bloch, 2014. "Mapping Income Inequality Across The Oecd," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Peter Hoeller & Isabelle Joumard & Isabell Koske (ed.), Income Inequality in OECD Countries What are the Drivers and Policy Options?, chapter 2, pages 13-42, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    24. Alfani, Guido, 2015. "Economic Inequality in Northwestern Italy: A Long-Term View (Fourteenth to Eighteenth Centuries)," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1058-1096, December.
    25. Guido Alfani, 2017. "The rich in historical perspective: evidence for preindustrial Europe (ca. 1300–1800)," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(3), pages 321-348, September.
    26. Alfani, Guido & Ryckbosch, Wouter, 2016. "Growing apart in early modern Europe? A comparison of inequality trends in Italy and the Low Countries, 1500–1800," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 143-153.
    27. Ewout Frankema, 2010. "The colonial roots of land inequality: geography, factor endowments, or institutions?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(2), pages 418-451, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Sédi-Anne Boukaka & Giulia Mancini & Giovanni Vecchi, 2021. "Poverty and inequality in Francophone Africa, 1960s–2010s," Economic History of Developing Regions, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(1), pages 1-29, January.
    2. Alvaredo, Facundo & Cogneau, Denis & Piketty, Thomas, 2020. "Income inequality under Colonial Rule: Evidence from French Algeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, and Vietnam and comparisons with the British Empire 1920-1960," CEPR Discussion Papers 14969, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Alvaredo, Facundo & Cogneau, Denis & Piketty, Thomas, 2021. "Income inequality under colonial rule. Evidence from French Algeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, and Vietnam and comparisons with British colonies 1920–1960," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 152(C).
    4. Vito Ricci & Giacomo Zanibelli, 2021. "For a Multidimensional Measure of Land Inequality in 1930s Italy. A Historical-Statistical Analysis," Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) 2107, Asociación Española de Historia Económica.
    5. Aroop Chatterjee, 2019. "Measuring wealth inequality in South Africa: An agenda," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2019-45, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Alfani, Guido & Ryckbosch, Wouter, 2016. "Growing apart in early modern Europe? A comparison of inequality trends in Italy and the Low Countries, 1500–1800," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 143-153.
    2. Espín-Sánchez, José-Antonio & Gil-Guirado, Salvador & Giraldo-Paez, W. Daniel & Vickers, Chris, 2019. "Labor income inequality in pre-industrial Mediterranean Spain: The city of Murcia in the 18th century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 1-1.
    3. Alfani, Guido & Di Tullio, M & Fochesato, M, 2020. "The determinants of wealth inequality in the Republic of Venice (1400-1800)," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 483, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    4. Alfani, Guido & Gierok, Victoria & Schaff, Felix, 2022. "Economic Inequality in Preindustrial Germany, ca. 1300–1850," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 82(1), pages 87-125, March.
    5. Stefania Galli & Klas Rönnbäck, 2021. "Land distribution and inequality in a black settler colony: the case of Sierra Leone, 1792–1831," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 74(1), pages 115-137, February.
    6. Julio Martinez-Galarraga & Marc Prat, 2022. "Pre-industrial inequality in Catalonia," UB Economics Working Papers 2022/430, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB School of Economics.
    7. Guido Alfani & Wouter Ryckbosch, 2015. "Was there a ‘Little Convergence’ in inequality? Italy and the Low Countries compared, ca. 1500-1800," Working Papers 557, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    8. Irarrázaval, Andrés, 2020. "The fiscal origins of comparative inequality levels: an empirical and historical investigation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 107491, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Irarrázaval, Andrés, 2020. "The fiscal origins of comparative inequality levels: an empirical and historical investigation," Economic History Working Papers 107491, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    10. Alfani, Guido, 2020. "Epidemics, inequality and poverty in preindustrial and early industrial times," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 520, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    11. Kumon, Yuzuru, 2021. "The Deep Roots of Inequality," IAST Working Papers 21-125, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    12. Paolo Malanima, 2018. "Italy in the Renaissance: a leading economy in the European context, 1350–1550," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(1), pages 3-30, February.
    13. Iacopetta, Maurizio, 2021. "Class differences and the Commercial Revolution: An equilibrium selection story," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 100(C).
    14. Morten Jerven, 2014. "A West African experiment: constructing a GDP series for colonial Ghana, 1891–1950," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(4), pages 964-992, November.
    15. Leander Heldring & James A. Robinson, 2012. "Colonialism and Economic Development in Africa," NBER Working Papers 18566, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Guido Alfani, 2022. "Epidemics, Inequality, and Poverty in Preindustrial and Early Industrial Times," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 3-40, March.
    17. Fenske, James, 2014. "Trees, tenure and conflict: Rubber in colonial Benin," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 226-238.
    18. Rok Spruk & Mitja Kovac, 2018. "Inefficient Growth," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 9(2).
    19. Oleg Badunenko & Daniel Henderson & Romain Houssa, 2014. "Significant drivers of growth in Africa," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 339-354, December.
    20. Richens, Peter, 2009. "The economic legacies of the ‘thin white line’: indirect rule and the comparative development of sub-Saharan Africa," Economic History Working Papers 27879, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    africa; inequality; income distribution; development; extractive institutions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N17 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:594. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: http://www.igier.unibocconi.it/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.igier.unibocconi.it/ .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.