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

Mohamed Saleh ()

No 13-428, TSE Working Papers from Toulouse School of Economics (TSE)

Abstract: Inter-religion socioeconomic differences are often attributed to religion. Instead, I trace the phenomenon in Egypt to self-selection-on-socioeconomic-status during Egypt’s conversion from Coptic Christianity to Islam. Self-selection was driven by a regressive tax-on-religion that was imposed upon the Arab Conquest of Egypt in 641 and lasted until 1856. Using novel data sources, I document that (a) the long-term trends of the tax, conversions, and the Coptic-Muslim occupational differences are consistent with the selection hypothesis, and (b) districts with a higher tax in 641- 1100 had relatively fewer, but differentially better-off, Copts in 1848-1868. I discuss why the initial selection persisted over time.

Keywords: Religion; poll tax; persistence; conversion; Middle East (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N35 O15 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013-08, Revised 2017-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ara and nep-his
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Journal Article: On the Road to Heaven: Taxation, Conversions, and the Coptic-Muslim Socioeconomic Gap in Medieval Egypt (2018) Downloads
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