Nation-Building and Education

40 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2013 Last revised: 24 Dec 2022

See all articles by Alberto F. Alesina

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Bryony Reich

University of Cambridge

B Reich

Northwestern University

Date Written: February 2013


Nations stay together when citizens share enough values and preferences and can communicate with each other. Democracies and dictatorships have different incentives when it comes to choosing how much and by what means to homogenize the population, i.e. “to build a nation”. We study and compare nation-building policies under the transition from dictatorship to democracy in a model where the location and type of government and the borders of the country are endogenous. We find that the threat of democratization provides the strongest incentive to homogenize. We focus upon a specific nation-building policy: the provision of mass primary education. As a motivation, we offer historical discussions of several episodes in the nineteenth century and suggestive correlations for a large sample of countries over the 1925-2014 period.

Suggested Citation

Alesina, Alberto F. and Reich, Bryony and Reich, B, Nation-Building and Education (February 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18839, Available at SSRN:

Alberto F. Alesina (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Bryony Reich

University of Cambridge ( email )

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Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

B Reich

Northwestern University ( email )

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Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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