Working papers available upon request.

Historical Political Economy

For God and Country: British Protestant Missions and the Foundations of Democracy in Africa (with Dean Dulay)

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.

"Women on a Mission: Protestant Legacies of Gender Equality in Africa?" (with Felix Meier zu Selhausen).

African Economic History Network Working Paper No. 72 [LINK] 

Christian missions, especially Protestants missions, have been shown to advance long-run education outcomes and gender equality in Africa. However, the mechanisms behind this benign legacy and the contribution of missionary women, who constituted more than half of all Western mission staff, are not well-understood. We compile a new extensive data set on the locations of missions in colonial Africa, including the gender composition of their staff. In combination with contemporary survey data on one million respondents in 29 African countries, we provide evidence of missions' equalizing effects with regards to education and a wide range of female agency outcomes. We document that Protestant missions left no more benign legacy than Catholics, questioning the Protestant exceptionalism highlighted by prior studies. We also document a strong association between missionary women and girls' school enrollment in colonial times but find no evidence of any lasting gendered effects. Post-independence expansion of public education and the secularization of school curricula may have offset persistence of Africa's earliest centers of female education. 

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

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.

Public Opinion

Odious Wealth: How History Shapes Attitudes towards Redistribution (with Nora Waitkus)

Inherited wealth has often been accumulated under circumstances seen as illegitimate by present-day standards. However, we know surprisingly little about the political consequences of wealth's history. We argue that illegitimate accumulation nurtures opposition and calls for redistribution, even after multiple generations. To test our theory, we conduct a survey in Germany, where many wealthy business owners inherited companies that made considerable fortunes during one of the darkest episodes of human history, the Nazi regime of 1933-1945. We demonstrate with a vignette experiment that individuals perceive heirs of businesses that cooperated with the Nazi regime as less deserving than other similar heirs, and are more likely to support expropriations. These results align with general views and attitudes about the German economy. Our findings add to studies on the historical origins of public opinion as well as deservingness by showing how illegitimate wealth accumulation affects political attitudes across generations.


Taxing Your Cake and Growing It Too: Public Beliefs on the Dual Benefits of Progressive Taxation (with Bruno Castanho Silva and Hanna Lierse).

Political and economic elites often warn that taxes on the rich impair economic growth. Although such warnings have a long tradition in elite discourse and election campaigns, what the public believes about the effects of progressive taxation remains surprisingly understudied. This omission limits our understanding of a basic democratic mechanism, the congruence of elite and mass opinion. To close this gap, we employ a conjoint experiment during the last German national election on a representative quota sample. Participants compare policy packages that entail changes in income, inheritance, and corporate taxes  and evaluate their impact on equality and growth. We find no evidence that the public believes in a trade-off between equality and growth. 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. Our findings may help to shape a more consensual approach to progressive taxation that emphasizes positive synergies between economic growth and greater equality.