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Regional development and national identity in sub-Saharan Africa

Journal article
Authors Pelle Ahlerup
Thushyanthan Baskaran
Arne Bigsten
Published in Journal of Comparative Economics
Volume 45
Issue 3
Pages 622-643
ISSN 0147-5967
Publication year 2017
Published at Gothenburg Centre for Globalization and Development (GCGD)
Department of Economics
Pages 622-643
Language en
Keywords Africa, Nation building, Regional income, Survey data
Subject categories Economics


© 2016 Association for Comparative Economic Studies. We study how regional development affects identification with the nation state using a sample of 192 African regions in 16 countries. We measure national identification with survey data from the fourth wave of the Afrobarometer and proxy regional development with night lights data. To account for the endogeneity of regional development, we employ an instrumental variables approach and use a proxy for mineral resource wealth as our main instrument. Our results show that inhabitants of more prosperous regions are more likely to identify with their nation rather than their ethnic group. Regarding transmission channels, we find suggestive evidence consistent with the interpretation that national identification is higher in richer regions because of different cultural beliefs and a lower reliance on traditional ethnic networks. Overall, our research implies that African governments can foster national identification by ensuring that all parts of a country participate equitably in economic development.

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