Working papers available upon request.

Historical Political Economy

License to Educate: The Role of National Networks in Colonial Empires (with Carina Schmitt). [R&R]

Colonial Africa was shaped by a variety of European actors. Of foremost importance in the educational sector were both colonial governments and Christian mission societies. While their activities and long-term implications are often analyzed in isolation, few systematic studies investigate relationships between them. However, it is well-known that underfunded colonial governments supported mission societies, who used schools to attract new converts, as low-cost educational providers. In this paper, we argue that mission societies that shared national ties with colonial governments benefited from increased support and engaged in more extensive educational activities. Using new historical data on Protestant mission societies from the interwar period in Africa, we demonstrate that national alignment between mission societies and colonizer’s identity in British Africa was associated with more primary schools and higher enrollment. We discuss and explore potential channels underlying this dynamic, including financial support for missionary activities as well as the granting of access to more favourable locations. Our findings show that national networks are an important but understudied aspect of colonial empires. Furthermore, analyzing the early expansion of education provides insights on the causal links often assumed by studies focused exclusively on long-term effects.

For God and Country: British Protestant Missions and the Foundations of Democracy in Africa (with Dean Dulay). [under review]

Christian missions contributed to the spread of democracy throughout the colonial world by promoting education and literacy. However, not all missions could equally count on the support of colonial governments. We argue that the national origins of missions, defined by the location of their sending societies, were decisive in determining state support in British Africa. British missions were more closely connected to the state and could therefore outperform their non-British counterparts, with lasting consequences for education and democracy. We combine novel station-level data with contemporary survey data and show that individuals residing in localities that received British missions have higher levels of education and are more supportive of democracy today. The results are robust even after an extensive set of historical confounders and potential selection biases are accounted for. We demonstrate that national origins do not affect the democratic legacy of Catholic missions or missions outside of British Africa.

The Colonial Labour Question: Trade and Social Policy in Interwar Africa (with Carina Schmitt). [under review]

Access to education as well as health systems belong to the core development goals of the United Nations since its inception. Today, almost all countries have education and health systems in place. In former colonies, the historical roots of these systems can often be traced back to colonial times. In this paper, we argue that spending on social services for the local population was seen as a necessary condition to expand the trade-based colonial economy especially in the initial stage of social services dating back to the interwar period. Using novel data on health and education expenditure in 36 former British and French African colonies during the height of their empires (1925-36), we show that trade volumes account for a large share in the variance of expenditure on early social protection schemes. Our results suggest that similar mechanisms are at play within the two empires and differences between them are in degree rather than in kind.

Mapping Missions: New Data for the Study of African History (with Christine Hedde-von Westernhagen). [accepted, Research Data Journal]

The study of societal and institutional change has greatly benefited from a growing number of studies exploring sub-national variation in colonialism and its legacies. One vibrant stream in this literature focuses on the role of Christian missionaries in European empires. However, advances are often hampered by the quality and scarcity of available historical data. In this paper, we introduce a new geospatial dataset of Catholic and Protestant mission stations in colonial Africa that offers a more complete picture than currently used data sources. We illustrate the greater coverage our data provides and demonstrate its utility by replicating the effect of missions on the expansion of formal education, one of the most established legacies of Christian missionaries.

Militarization, Colonialism, and Political Participation (with Carina Schmitt). [under review]

The impact of militarization on political participation have been addressed by recent studies. However, most studies focus on civil and interstate war contexts not taking long-run consequences in colonial contexts into account. To address this gap, we analyze whether the militarization of French West African colonial societies during colonial times has long-term effects on contemporary political participation. We examine this relationship using geocoded district-level data on recruitment quotas spatially merged with contemporary survey data on political participation. Our results strongly support that militarization in colonial French West Africa has long-term consequences propelling contemporary political participation.

Public Opinion

International Inequality and Demand for Redistribution in the Global South [under review]

Despite some progress, inequality between countries remains at staggering levels. However, we know surprisingly little about demand for international redistribution in the Global South. This is unfortunate as it hinders our understanding of the pressures governments experience to cooperate internationally. Therefore, this paper studies perceptions of international inequality and attitudes towards international aid, a primary policy for international redistribution, in Kenya, a major recipient of aid. It features an SMS-based survey experiment, in which respondents are treated with information about international income differences. It is found that most respondents underestimate these differences and that providing accurate information increases inequality aversion. However, this aversion does not translate into demand for aid. The findings question often-made assumptions about the popularity of aid and call for further investigation of other internationally redistributive policies.

Schools on Fire: How Violent Protest Disrupts Kenyan Politics. [under review]

Violent protest can help groups without political access to voice grievances and demands. Although violent protest is a global phenomenon, prior studies have focused on the United States and Europe. In this paper, I explore the effect of school arson on public opinion in Kenya. Using a difference-in-difference approach, I estimate opinion changes over the course of two school years that saw an unusually high number of arson cases. I find that school arson lowers political approval and amplifies calls for disciplinary action rather than school reforms. As such, Kenyan students succeed in drawing the attention of the public and politicians, but are unlikely to see reforms that address their grievances. The findings shed light on an understudied side of Kenyan politics and call for a broadening of research on violent protest.

Historical sources of wealth and preferences over taxation (with Nora Waitkus).

Public Trade-off Concerns over Redistributive Taxes (with Bruno Castanho Silva and Hanna Lierse). [under review]

Calls for taxes on the rich are often countered by warnings of detrimental effects for economic growth. Although this equality-efficiency trade-off has a long tradition in elite discourse, we know surprisingly little about what beliefs individuals hold about the effects of progressive taxation. This omission limits our understanding of a basic democratic mechanism, the congruence of elite and mass opinion. We study mass policy beliefs using a survey experiment in Germany with a conjoint design in which participants (n = 1,360) evaluate different tax packages and their impact on equality and growth. We find no evidence that equality-efficiency trade-offs determine individual beliefs. Instead participants believe that both go hand in hand, particularly for income and wealth taxation. Furthermore, such beliefs do not vary by ideology or economic status. These findings question common wisdom about policy beliefs and suggest that public opinion over progressive taxation is more consensual than elite discourse would suggest.