Regime Stability and the Persistence of Traditional Practices
66 Pages Posted: 3 May 2019 Last revised: 17 Aug 2020
Date Written: February 10, 2019
This paper investigates the role of national institutions on the persistence of cultural norms and traditions. In particular, I examine why the harmful tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) persists in certain African countries while in others it has been eradicated. I argue that people are more willing to abandon their institutions and traditions if they are conﬁdent that the government is durable enough to set up long-term replacements for them. Conversely, people living under weak regimes revert to their traditional cultural norms. I exploit the fact that ethnic groups in Africa were artiﬁcially partitioned by national borders and, using a country-ethnicity panel dataset spanning 23 countries from 1970 to 2013, I show that one standard deviation in political regime durability explains 10 percent of the standard deviation of the share of circumcised women, conditional on the presence of an anti-FGM policy. The results are robust to an array of control variables and robustness checks. I conﬁrm that the results are unlikely to be spurious by using within-nation variation in regime durability induced by leaders’ deaths from natural causes.
Keywords: Traditional Practices, Female Genital Mutilation, Regime Durability, Institutions
JEL Classification: D19, J15, O12, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation