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On the Road to Heaven: Self-Selection, Religion, and Socio-Economic Status

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  • Saleh, Mohamed

Abstract

Inter-religion socioeconomic differences are often attributed to religion. Instead, I trace the phenomenon in Egypt to self-selection-on-socioeconomic-status during Egypt’s conversion from Coptic Christianity to Islam. Self-selection was driven by a regressive tax-on-religion that was imposed upon the Arab Conquest of Egypt in 641 and lasted until 1856. Using novel data sources, I document that (a) the long-term trends of the tax, conversions, and the Coptic-Muslim occupational differences are consistent with the selection hypothesis, and (b) districts with a higher tax in 641- 1100 had relatively fewer, but differentially better-off, Copts in 1848-1868. I discuss why the initial selection persisted over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Saleh, Mohamed, 2013. "On the Road to Heaven: Self-Selection, Religion, and Socio-Economic Status," IAST Working Papers 13-04, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST), revised Dec 2015.
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:iastwp:27565
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Mohamed Saleh, 2017. "A ‘new’ economic history of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 25(2), pages 149-163, April.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Religion; poll tax; persistence; conversion; Middle East;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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