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The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa

  • Nathan Nunn
  • Leonard Wantchekon

We investigate the historical origins of mistrust within Africa. Combining contemporary household survey data with historic data on slave shipments, we show that individuals whose ancestors were heavily raided during the slave trade today exhibit less trust in neighbors, relatives, and their local government. We confirm that the relationship is causal by using the historic distance from the coast of a respondent's ancestors as an instrument for the intensity of the slave trade, while controlling for the individual's current distance from the coast. We undertake a number of falsification tests, all of which suggest that the necessary exclusion restriction is satisfied. Exploiting variation among individuals who live in locations different from their ancestors, we show that most of the impact of the slave trade works through factors that are internal to the individual, such as cultural norms, beliefs, and values.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14783.

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Date of creation: Mar 2009
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Publication status: published as 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 3221-52, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14783
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  2. Nunn, Nathan & Wantchekon, Leonard, 2011. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," Scholarly Articles 11986331, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  8. 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.
  9. Raquel Fernandez & Alessandra Fogli, 2005. "Culture: an empirical investigation of beliefs, work, and fertility," Staff Report 361, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  10. Aghion, Philippe & Algan, Yann & Cahuc, Pierre, 2008. "Can Policy Interact with Culture? Minimum Wage and the Quality of Labor Relations," IZA Discussion Papers 3680, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Alesina, Alberto F & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2000. "Who Trusts Others?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2646, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  13. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Bernhard von Rosenbladt & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2003. "A Nation-Wide Laboratory. Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioral Experiments into Representative Survey," CESifo Working Paper Series 866, CESifo Group Munich.
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  17. Guido Tabellini, 2006. "Culture and institutions: economic development in the regions of Europe," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000241, David K. Levine.
  18. Yann Algan & Pierre Cahuc & Philippe Aghion, 2008. "Can Policy influence culture? Minimum Wage and the Quality of Labor relations," 2008 Meeting Papers 574, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  19. Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs & Schupp, Jürgen & von Rosenbladt, Bernhard & Wagner, Gert Georg, 2003. "A Nationwide Laboratory Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioural Experiments into Representative Surveys," CEPR Discussion Papers 3858, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. Bellows, John & Miguel, Edward, 2009. "War and local collective action in Sierra Leone," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1144-1157, December.
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  22. Edward L. Glaeser & David I. Laibson & José A. Scheinkman & Christine L. Soutter, 2000. "Measuring Trust," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 811-846.
    • Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  23. Alberto Bisin & Thierry Verdier, 2000. ""Beyond the Melting Pot": Cultural Transmission, Marriage, and the Evolution of Ethnic and Religious Traits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 955-988.
  24. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
  25. William Easterly & Ross Levine, 1997. "Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1203-1250.
  26. Marcel Fafchamps, 2005. "Development and Social Capital," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-007, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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