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Sex and the Mission: The Conflicting Effects of Early Christian Investments on the HIV Epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa

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  • Julia Cage

    (Département d'économie)

  • Valeria Rueda

Abstract

This article investigates the long-term historical impact of missionary activity on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. On the one hand, missionaries were among the first to invest in modern medicine in a number of countries. On the other hand, Christianity influenced sexual beliefs and behaviors. We build a new geocoded dataset locating Protestant and Catholic missions in the early 20th century, as well as their health investments. Using a number of different empirical strategies to address selection in missionary locations and into health investments, we show that missionary presence has conflicting effects on HIV today. Regions close to historical mission stations exhibit higher HIV prevalence. This negative impact is robust to multiple specifications accounting for urbanization, and we provide evidence that it is specific to STDs. Less knowledge about condom use is a likely channel. On the contrary, among regions historically close to missionary settlements, proximity to a mission with a health investment is associated with lower HIV prevalence nowadays. Safer sexual behaviors around these missions are a possible explanatory channel.

Suggested Citation

  • Julia Cage & Valeria Rueda, 2019. "Sex and the Mission: The Conflicting Effects of Early Christian Investments on the HIV Epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa," Sciences Po Economics Discussion Papers 2019-02, Sciences Po Departement of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/76npisrda99aop75h6fmi4vduu
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    4. Fenske, James & Wang, Shizhou, 2020. "Tradition and mortality: Evidence from twin infanticide in Africa," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1317, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    5. Graziella Bertocchi & Arcangelo Dimico, 2020. "COVID-19, Race, and Redlining," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 145, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    6. Bertocchi, Graziella & Dimico, Arcangelo, 2019. "The long-term determinants of female HIV infection in Africa: The slave trade, polygyny, and sexual behavior," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 90-105.
    7. Alberto Alesina & Sebastian Hohmann & Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2021. "Intergenerational Mobility in Africa," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 89(1), pages 1-35, January.
    8. Felix Meier zu Selhausen, 2019. "Missions, Education and Conversion in Colonial Africa," Palgrave Studies in Economic History, in: David Mitch & Gabriele Cappelli (ed.), Globalization and the Rise of Mass Education, chapter 0, pages 25-59, Palgrave Macmillan.
    9. Tafesse, Wiktoria & Chalkley, Martin, 2021. "Faith-based provision of sexual and reproductive healthcare in Malawi," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 282(C).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Historical persistence; Missions; Health investments; HIV/AIDS; Sexual behavior;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania
    • N77 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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