The economics of missionary expansion: evidence from Africa and implications for development

Jedwab, Remi, Meier Zu Selhausen, Felix and Moradi, Alexander (2018) The economics of missionary expansion: evidence from Africa and implications for development. Working Paper. University of Oxford, Oxon.

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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.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Working Paper)
Keywords: Path Dependence, Economic Development, Economics of Religion; Human Capital, Missionaries, Measurement Error, Christianity, Colonization, Africa, Ghana
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Economics
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
H Social Sciences > HC Economic history and conditions
L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa. Oceania) > LG401 Africa
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Depositing User: Felix Meier Zu Selhausen
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2018 12:36
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2018 12:40

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