While its recent history of civil war, chronic poverty and corrupt governance would cause many to dismiss Sierra Leone as a hopeless case, the country's economic and political performance over the last decade has defied expectations. We examine how several factors—including the legacy of war, ethnic diversity, decentralization and community-driven development (CDD)—have shaped local institutions and national political dynamics. The story that emerges is a nuanced one: war does not necessarily destroy the capacity for local collective action; ethnicity affects residential choice, but does not impede local public goods provision; while politics remain heavily ethnic, voters are willing to cross ethnic boundaries when they have better information about candidates; decentralization can work even where capacity is limited, although the results are mixed; and for all of its promise, CDD does not appear to transform local institutions nor social norms. All of these findings are somewhat “unexpected,” but they are quite positive in signaling that even one of the world’s poorest, most violent and ethnically diverse societies can overcome major challenges and progress towards meaningful economic and political development.
Ethnic identities are believed to be powerful motivators of behavior in Africa, but the source of their salience in political and social affairs remains debated. One perspective holds that ethnic identities are salient in Africa because they reflect traditional loyalties to kith and kin. By this view, ethnic identities are hardwired – intrinsically part of who people are – and their salience follows directly from their link to people's natural makeup. A contrary perspective argues that ethnicity is salient because it is functional. The world is a competitive place, proponents of this position hold, and in that world ethnicity serves as a useful tool for mobilizing people, policing boundaries, and building coalitions that can be deployed in the struggle for power and scarce resources. By this view, the salience of ethnicity is intrinsically bound up in political competition.
In keeping with the conventional wisdom in the scholarly literature (e.g. Bates 1983; Horowitz 1985; Young 1976), we find strong evidence in favor of the latter perspective. In departure from that literature, however, we draw our conclusions from cross-national survey data rather than case studies and anecdotal evidence. This approach permits us to generalize across settings and puts us in a much stronger position to rule out competing explanations for the patterns we find. Our results therefore rest on much firmer empirical foundations than prior research on the political sources of ethnic identification.
Hundreds of millions of children in less developed countries suffer from poor health and nutrition. Children in most less developed countries also complete far fewer years of schooling, and learn less per year of schooling, than do children in developed countries. Recent research has shown that poor health and nutrition among children reduces their time in school and their learning during that time. This implies that programs or policies that increase children's health status could also improve their education outcomes. Given the importance of education for economic development, this link could be a key mechanism to improve the quality of life in less developed countries. Many researchers have attempted to estimate the impact of child health on education outcomes, but there are formidable obstacles to obtaining credible estimates. Data are often scarce, although much less scarce than in previous decades. Even more importantly, there are many possible sources of bias when attempting to estimate relationships between child health and education. This Chapter provides an overview of what has been learned thus far. Although significant progress has been made, much more research is still needed — especially in estimating the long term impact of child health status on living standards. The chapter first reviews some basic facts about child health and education in less developed countries. It then provides a framework for analyzing the impact of health and nutrition on education, describes estimation problems and potential solutions, and summarizes recent empirical evidence, including both non-experimental and experimental studies. It concludes with suggestions for future research directions.
Dozens of countries around the world have suffered civil conflicts in the past few decades, with the highest concentration in Sub-Saharan Africa. The direct humanitarian consequences of war for survivors are enormous in physical insecurity, loss of property, and psychological trauma. There may also be lasting economic development costs for societies that experience violent civil conflicts. And the international “spillover” effects of conflicts can be large for neighboring countries faced with refugee flows, lawlessness on their borders, and the illicit trades in drugs, arms, and minerals that proliferate in conflict zones. This insecurity has foreign policy implications for the United States along multiple dimensions.
But what causes this insecurity and what can be done about it? In this chapter, I first describe recent academic research that finds a strong link leading from poverty to violence in less developed countries. I then lay out some of the implications of this core finding for public policy and in particular for the design of foreign aid.
This essay begins with a discussion of the recent social science literature on the impact of ethnic, racial, and religious divisions, and then proposes a set of policies that less-developed countries should follow to help them overcome ethnic conflict. It advocates the adoption of “nation-building” policies that foster the development of a common national identity. The case of Tanzania, and the contrast of Tanzania with its East African neighbor, Kenya, is the focus of this essay. It is argued that Tanzania’s serious approach to forging a common national identity attractive across ethnic groups — which takes the form of extensive linguistic, educational, and institutional reforms — offers a model for other less-developed countries that inherited ethnic divisions in the post-independence period. An overview of empirical evidence based on original field data collection is presented, which shows that this nation-building approach has allowed ethnically diverse communities in rural Tanzania to achieve considerable success in local fund-raising for primary schools, while ethnically diverse Kenyan communities have largely failed in this task.
The volume Health and Economic Growth: Findings and Policy Implications is evidence of the growing awareness within economics of the important connections between health and poverty in less developed countries. The aim of this chapter is to review recent evidence on one potential channel through which health may affect income: education.