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The Economics of Missionary Expansion: Evidence from Africa and Implications for Development

Remi Jedwab (), Felix Meier zu Selhausen () and Alexander Moradi ()

No 2018-07, CSAE Working Paper Series from Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford

Abstract: One of the most powerful cultural transformations in modern history has been the dramatic expansion of Christianity outside Europe. Recent, yet extensive, literature uses Christian missions established during colonial times as a source of exogenous variation to study the long-term effects of religion, human capital and culture in Africa, the Americas and Asia. We argue that the endogeneity of missionary expansion may be underestimated, thus questioning the link between missions and economic development. Using annual panel data on missions from 1751 to 1932 in Ghana as well as cross-sectional data on missions for 43 sub-Saharan African countries in 1900 and 1924, we show that: (i) locational decisions were driven by economic factors, as missionaries went to healthier, safer, and more accessible and developed areas, privileging the best locations first; (ii) these factors may spuriously explain why locations with past missions are more developed today, especially as most studies rely on historical mission atlases that tend to only report the best mission locations. Our study identifies factors behind the spatial diffusion of religion. It also highlights the risks of omission and endogenous measurement error biases when using historical data and events for identification.

Keywords: Path Dependence; Economic Development; Economics of Religion; Human Capital; Compression of History; Measurement Error; Christianity; Colonization; Africa (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F54 L31 N37 O15 O17 Z12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-afr, nep-dev, nep-evo, nep-gro and nep-his
Date: 2018
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
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Related works:
Working Paper: The Economics of Missionary Expansion: Evidence from Africa and Implications for Development (2019) Downloads
Working Paper: The Economics of Missionary Expansion: Evidence from Africa and Implications for Development (2019) Downloads
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