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Big BRICs, Weak Foundations: The Beginning of Public Elementary Education in Brazil, Russia, India, and China

Our paper provides a comparative perspective on the development of public primary education in four of the largest developing economies circa 1910: Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC). These four countries encompassed more than 50 percent of the worldÂ’s population in 1910, but remarkably few of their citizens attended any school by the early 20th century. We present new, comparable data on school inputs and outputs for BRIC drawn from contemporary surveys and government documents. Recent studies emphasize the importance of political decentralization, and relatively broad political voice for the early spread of public primary education in developed economies. We identify the former and the lack of the latter to be important in the context of BRIC, but we also outline how other factors such as factor endowments, colonialism, serfdom, and, especially, the characteristics of the political and economic elite help explain the low achievement levels of these four countries and the incredible amount of heterogeneity within each of them.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Williams College in its series Department of Economics Working Papers with number 2011-06.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2011-06
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  26. Aidt, T.S. & Dutta, Jayasri & Loukoianova, Elena, 2006. "Democracy comes to Europe: Franchise extension and fiscal outcomes 1830-1938," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 249-283, February.
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  28. Becker, Sascha O. & Hornung, Erik & Woessmann, Ludger, 2009. "Catch Me If You Can: Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revolution," IZA Discussion Papers 4556, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  29. Mary MacKinnon & Chris Minns, 2009. "The impact of school provision on pupil attendance: evidence from the early 20th century," Economic History Working Papers 27863, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  30. Debin Ma, 2008. "Economic growth in the Lower Yangzi region of China in 1911–1937: a quantitative and historical analysis," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 32398, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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