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Friends from afar: The Taiping Rebellion, cultural proximity and primary schooling in the Lower Yangzi, 1850–1949

Yu Hao and Melanie Meng Xue

Explorations in Economic History, 2017, vol. 63, issue C, 44-69

Abstract: This paper tests the hypothesis that the cultural distance between migrants and natives impedes the provision of public goods. The Taiping Rebellion was a shock that caused groups without a history of shared governance to be relocated to the same region. We use a unique historical dataset of surnames in the Lower Yangzi of China to construct a measure of the cultural distance between migrants and natives (MNCD). We find that a one-standard-deviation increase in the MNCD is associated with a decrease of over 0.19 public primary schools per 10,000 persons in the early twentieth century. The results survive various robustness checks and an instrumental variable analysis that exploits the pre-existing cultural distances between the native and the nearby population. Evidence from the timing of when the MNCD takes effect suggests that the primary mechanism runs from migrant-native cultural distance through quality of collective decision-making to modern primary education.

Keywords: Cultural distance; Local public goods; Primary education; Quasi-exogenous migration (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 J15 N45 N95 O15 Z1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2016.12.004

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