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Title: The Unequal Political and Economic Legacy of Colonial Education in Africa
Authors: Ricart-Huguet, Joan
Advisors: Boix, Carles
Wantchekon, Leonard
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Africa
economic development
political elites
Subjects: Political science
Economic history
African history
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: A wealth of research shows that presidents and even cabinet ministers disproportionately favor their home regions and districts. This phenomenon is variously called distributive politics, clientelism, or regional favoritism. But what explains how power is distributed across the districts of a country to begin with? Extant explanations of cabinet formation focus on bargaining—leaders allocate portfolios strategically—but fail to consider long-term factors. Leveraging novel data on the political elites of 16 former British and French colonies in East and West Africa, I find that some districts are represented in postcolonial governments (1960-2010) much more than others, even after adjusting for population (chapter 1). By combining historical records and geospatial data, I show that this regional political inequality derives from unequal colonial investments in primary education rather than from other investments, levels of development, ethnic characteristics, or pre-colonial factors. I argue that post-colonial ministers are partly a byproduct of civil service recruitment practices among European administrators, which focused on literacy. Early education shaped post-independence politics through colonial institutions. It helps explain elite production and reproduction. How did colonial states allocate their investments (chapter 2)? I show that geography led some places to become centers of pre-colonial coastal trade, which later increased colonial investments not only in infrastructure but also in health and education. The importance of alternative explanations such as natural resources, disease environment, or pre-colonial ethnic characteristics is surprisingly small. Although the context was highly extractive, pre-colonial commerce also helps explain the limited within-colony inland diffusion of non-extractive investments (education and health). Finally, I provide evidence that non-extractive colonial investments are positively associated with current economic development across districts in East and West Africa (chapter 3). I uncover the role of political elites as a missing link between early human capital investments and current development. Thus, political elites become a mechanism that bridges the literatures on colonial legacies and distributive politics. The two are usually disconnected, yet regional favoritism is embedded in longer processes of political elite formation. My results complement and, in some dimensions, upend our understanding of political and economic underdevelopment.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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