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Build It, and They Will Come? Secondary Railways and Population Density in French Algeria

Laura Maravall Buckwalter

IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola

Abstract: This paper estimates the effect of gaining access to railways on settler and indigenous population densities in nineteenth-century French Algeria. A growing amount of research shows that railway expansion allowed previously marginalized regions to participate in international trade and thereby to boost growth. However, few studies point out that railways increased marginalization in areas that did not gain access to the infrastructure or that did not have the required geographic characteristics needed to engage in international markets. By taking advantage of unique territorial population data and digitized historical colonization maps in the Constantine region, this paper measures the effect of gaining access in relatively isolated areas where the infrastructure arrived later using a differences-in-differences combined with a propensity score matching methodology. Results show that the indigenous population responded positively to rail infrastructure only in the regions where settler density was already high, while the settler population growth did not respond to the new infrastructure. These results are consistent with an additional IV strategy. A more detailed analysis of freight and passenger transport shows that the potential gains were restricted by tariffs, which mirrored Constantine's geographical restrictions; that is, limited fertile land and the vulnerability of agricultural production to climate.

Keywords: Colonial; Railways; Transport; and; Trade; Agriculture; Population; Density; Algeria (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O18 N5 N7 N9 Q17 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ara, nep-gro and nep-tre
Date: 2018-04-24
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