What Drives Quality of Schools in Africa? Disentangling Social Capital and Ethnic Divisions
Afrobarometer Working Paper Number 146
31 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2016
Date Written: February 10, 2015
Because of limited governmental resources, communities in Africa often rely on collective action to provide basic public goods such as schools. What drives the ability of communities to produce better schools? Two important lines of research shaped our understanding of the ability of communities to engage in collective action. The first line proposes ethnic division as a key determinant, with more ethnically heterogeneous countries having lower economic performances and levels of public goods. Thus, we expect to find better schools where ethnic fractionalization is low. The second line of research focuses on social capital as a major determinant of the ability to engage in collective action. We expect that trust among community members, a widely-used measure of social capital, is an important and positive determinant of school quality.
The present work aims to disentangle the relative effects of ethnic fractionalization and social capital on school quality. We use instrumental variable estimations to address reverse causality and other endogeneity issues. We instrument both social capital and ethnic fractionalization by using historical information on the settlement patterns of ethnic groups in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our empirical strategy is implemented by combining four datasets, including Afrobarometer, covering 16 sub-Saharan countries.
We find an important and positive effect of trust on the practical aspects of schooling, such as maintaining buildings or providing textbooks. A one percent increase in the level of trust increases the quality of local public goods by 0.18 to 1.05 percent, depending on the measure of school quality under consideration. In sharp contrast, ethnic fractionalization is found to have a very limited effect, if any. Our results suggest that policies designed to enhance social capital are likely to have a positive effect on schools and local public goods in general.
Keywords: Social Capital, Ethnic Division, Education, Africa, Causality
JEL Classification: I2, D7, H4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation