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Double, Double Toil and Trouble: An Investigation on Occult Forces Expenditures in Southern Benin

Philippe Lemay-Boucher, Vincent Somville and Joël Noret
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Philippe Lemay-Boucher: Heriot-Watt University
Joël Noret: Université Libre de Bruxelles

No 1105, Working Papers from University of Namur, Department of Economics

Abstract: In many African societies, beliefs in `occult forces' play a crucial role in mobilizing powerful social energies. Anthropologists, and more recently economists, have also stressed the importance of magico-religious practices in supporting redistributive norms and the important role played by these norms in (and against) economic development. This study is the first to use quantitative evidence about the recourse to magico-religious protection. We measure expenditures in protection, using first-hand data collected in Benin. These expenditures are widespread and independent of people's education, religion and ethnicity. They are as high as 6% of the household head's income, and 4,5% of the total household income, on average, and exceed the expenditures made on important items such as school furnitures or electricity. We show that the main factors that affect the recourse to magico-religious protection are economic success and the death of relatives, colleagues or friends. Moreover, we find that redistribution of income and protection are substitutes: economically successful people who do not make gifts to their relatives and acquaintances tend to resort more heavily to magico-religious protection.

Pages: 20 pages
Date: 2011-04
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-afr and nep-evo
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