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On the Road to Heaven: Taxation, Conversions, and the Coptic-Muslim Socioeconomic Gap in Medieval Egypt

Mohamed Saleh ()

The Journal of Economic History, 2018, vol. 78, issue 2, 394-434

Abstract: Self-selection of converts is an under-studied explanation of inter-religion socioeconomic status (SES) differences. Inspired by this conjecture, I trace the Coptic-Muslim SES gap in Egypt to self-selection-on-SES during Egypt’s conversion from Coptic Christianity to Islam. Selection was driven by a poll tax on non-Muslims, imposed from 641 until 1856, which induced poorer Copts to convert to Islam leading Copts to shrink into a better-off minority. Using novel data sources, I document that high-tax districts in 641–1100 had in 1848–1868 relatively fewer Copts, but greater SES differentials. Group restrictions on apprenticeships and schooling led the initial selection to perpetuate.

Date: 2018
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Working Paper: On the Road to Heaven: Taxation, Conversions, and the Coptic-Muslim Socioeconomic Gap in Medieval Egypt (2017)
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