Dissertation/Book Project

The Religious Roots of Inequality in Africa

Across much of sub-Saharan Africa, Muslims have lower educational attainment than Christians. Muslim disadvantage in education is one of the most important yet understudied development issues in Africa today. Where did the Christian-Muslim educational gap come from? Why has it persisted? Where and why has it been overcome? What are the implications of continued Muslim disadvantage for economic and political development in Africa?

The book project investigates all of these questions, thus bringing to light a striking and poorly understood inequality. The patterns my work reveals do not have obvious expla- nations in the existing literature. Muslim disadvantage cannot be the result of something inherent to Islam, as the magnitude of Christian-Muslim gap in education varies consider- ably across and within countries, and has changed over time. Neither is the presence of missionaries or missionary education, which has been explored elsewhere, able to explain why some Muslim populations were able to catch up while others did not. My work instead examines the political determinants of Muslim disadvantage, and its variation across time and space.

The dissertation is comprised of three parts. Part I introduces the variation in the Christian-Muslim gap in educational attainment across time and space, thus documenting and presenting evidence of an inequality that has been largely ignored by policymakers and
scholars alike. Part II examines the origins of Muslim disadvantage in education, investigating the relationship between pre-colonial and colonial institutions, and initial investments in secular education on the African continent. Finally, Part III examines the persistence of Muslim disadvantage, investigating in particular the relationship between Muslim majority status and educational attainment.