Has secular education contributed to the decline of polygamy in Africa? To answer this question, we study a wave of public school construction in late-colonial Cameroon. Our difference-in-differences and event-study specifications show that school openings have simultaneously increased education and the chances to be in a polygamous union for men and, more surprisingly, for women. We estimate a structural model of marriage to explain why education made women more likely to be in a polygamous union. The main estimated channel is marriage to educated men who are more often polygamists than uneducated men, not direct preferences for polygamy.
We revisit the question of colonial legacies in education by focusing on quality rather than quantity. We study Cameroon, a country where a Francophone education system with French colonial origins coexists with an Anglophone system with British colonial origins. This allows us to investigate the impact of different teaching practices on students’ test scores. We find that pupils schooled in the Francophone system perform better in mathematics in Grade 5, with test scores higher by two thirds of a standard deviation. Thanks to detailed school survey data, we are able to account for a wide array of inputs of the education production function, such as the economic and social conditions of students, the material conditions of the schools and classrooms, as well as some information on the teachers’ practices and pedagogical culture. We find that Francophone schools have better classroom equipment and that Francophone teachers use more vertical teaching methods, but that these differences cannot explain why Francophone students perform better in mathematics. In the end, we cannot pin down the exact mechanism behind our result.
What was the capacity of European colonial states? How fiscally extractive were they? What was their capacity to provide public goods and services? And did this change in the “developmentalist” era of colonialism? To answer these questions, we use archival sources to build a new dataset on colonial states of the second French colonial empire (1830–1962). French colonial states extracted a substantial amount of revenue, but they were under-administered because public expenditure entailed high wage costs. These costs remained a strong constraint in the “developmentalist” era of colonialism, despite a dramatic increase in fiscal capacity and large overseas subsidies.
Cameroon was partitioned between France and the United Kingdom after WWI and then reunited after independence. I use this natural experiment to investigate colonial legacies in education, using a border discontinuity analysis of historical census microdata from 1976. I find that men born in the decades following partition had, all else equal, one more year of schooling if they were born in the British part. This positive British effect disappeared after 1950, as the French increased education expenditure, and because of favoritism in school supply towards the Francophone side after reunification. Using 2005 census microdata, I find that the British advantage resurfaced more recently: Cameroonians born after 1970 are more likely to finish high school, attend a university, and have a high-skilled occupation if they were born in the former British part. I explain this result by the legacy of high grade repetition rates in the French-speaking education system and their detrimental effect on dropout.
We estimate the causal effect of losing a father in the U.S. Civil War on children’s long-run socioeconomic outcomes. Linking military records from the 2.2 million Union Army soldiers with the 1860 U.S. population census, we track soldiers’ sons into the 1880 and 1900 census. Sons of soldiers who died had lower occupational income scores and were less likely to work in a high- or semi-skilled job as opposed to being low-skilled or farmers. These effects persisted at least until the 1900 census. Our results are robust to instrumenting paternal death with the mortality rate of the father’s regiment, which we argue was driven by military strategy that did not take into account the social origins of soldiers. Pre-war family wealth is a strong mitigating factor: there is no effect of losing a father in the top quartile of the wealth distribution.