I just came across an interesting new working paper on the issue of social capital, slavery, and literacy. The author’s name is Nonso Obikili and the paper is called “The Impact of the Slave Trade on Literacy in Africa: Evidence from the Colonial Era.” I haven’t read the paper carefully yet but it looks promising. Here is the abstract:
Recent studies have highlighted the importance of Africa’s history of slave exporting to its current economic development. In this paper I show that differences in investment in education may be one of the channels through which that history has affected current development. I combine data on literacy rates of administrative districts from the colonial censuses of Nigeria and Ghana from the 1950’s with data on slave exports of different ethnic groups. I find a negative and signicant relationship between slave export intensity before the colonial era and literacy rates during the colonial era. I also use contemporary data on literacy rates from the 2010 Nigerian Literacy Survey and find that this negative relationship is still present and significant. Thus, I show that the slave trades affected development through channels other than inter-ethnic group confliict or formal nation-state level institutions.