Engendering Empathy, Begetting Backlash: American Attitudes toward Syrian Refugees (with Claire Adida and Adeline Lo)
We examine the effect on service delivery outcomes of U-Bridge, a new information communication technology (ICT) platform that allows citizens to send free and anonymous messages to local government officials, thus reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of communication about service delivery. In particular, we assess the extent to which U-Bridge improved monitoring by the district, effort by service providers, and inputs at service points in the areas of health, education and water in Arua district, Uganda. Despite relatively high levels of system uptake, enthusiasm of district officials, and anecdotal success stories, we found evidence only of marginal and uneven short- term improvements in the outcomes we measured, and no discernible long-term effects. A crucial issue is that relatively few messages from citizens provided novel, specific, and actionable information about service provision within the purview and resource constraints of the district officials. Our findings suggest that for crowd-sourced ICT programs to move from isolated success stories to long-term accountability enhancement, the quality and specific content of information provided by users is centrally important.
Do social networks matter for the adoption of technological innovations for political communication? Recent work has highlighted the role of social networks in the adoption of agricultural and health products, but it is not clear whether these findings apply for goods for which substantial collective action problems may be present. We conduct a social network mapping in sixteen Ugandan villages where a new communication technology was introduced to allow citizens to report service delivery problems to local government officials, a technology with potential large benefits to the village, but with the potential for free-riding. We find that the number of ties to adopters of the technology had a large and significant effect on adoption. The relationship between number of neighbors that have adopted and an individual’s adoption of the technology was driven by ties with friends and family rather than by ties with village leaders, suggesting that people may view political communication by peers as a complement to their own efforts, but by local leaders as a substitute. We also find that while both social learning and social influence affect the likelihood of adoption, social influence matters relatively more. Together, our results demonstrate the important role of social networks in the adoption of a type of technological innovation that is becoming increasingly common – technology for political communication – and highlight the ways in which the adoption of this kind of technology may be distinct from those studied previously.
The Muslim-Christian Education Gap in Africa
While the study of politics in Africa has long focused on ethnicity as the predominant cleavage affecting political and economic outcomes, large inequalities in socio- economic status exist across religious groups, including among co-ethnics. In particular, Muslims, who comprise one-third of the population of sub-Saharan Africa and are the fastest growing Muslim population in the world, are far less educated on average than Christians. This paper documents this widespread inequality and provides an empirical investigation of the correlates of the Muslim-Christian education gap at the country level. There is a strong and non-linear relationship between percentage Muslim of a country and the education gap. The gap increases sharply among both men and women as the Muslim population grows from being a very small minority to a larger minority, after which the relationship is flat. The patterns are consistent with a long-term effect of the initial distribution of colonial investments in formal education being concentrated in non-Muslim areas, with large Muslims minorities more easily excluded from colonial investments than small Muslim minorities. Wealthier countries tend to have larger education gaps, while the percentage of Muslims living in urban areas is negatively correlated with the education gap. The findings point toward new directions for the study of African politics, the politics of education, and the persistence of inequality across identity groups.
Muslim Majority Disadvantage in Africa
Religion is increasingly recognized as an important determinant of political and economic outcomes, from political participation to innovation. This paper identifies a new and related empirical relationship between religious identity and human capital in the context of sub-Saharan Africa. Using census and survey data from eleven African countries, I find that Muslims have lower educational attainment than Christians, and educational attainment is lowest where Muslims live as a local majority, a phenomenon I refer to as Muslim majority disadvantage. This pattern is found for men and women, adults and children. What explains Muslim majority disadvantage? Using administrative and survey data from the case of Malawi, I show that physical access to schools is lower in Muslim majority areas, and that Muslims living as a majority tend to be poorer than others. However, a large residual Muslim majority effect remains after taking into account both physical access and poverty. Using data from a new household survey with embedded experiments conducted in two districts in Malawi, one Muslim minority and one majority, I investigate a set of possible mechanisms that may explain the residual effect of Muslim majority status, controlling for access. I find similar levels of demand for education across Muslim minority areas, and no evidence that religious education is displacing formal education. Muslims living as a majority have more religiously homogeneous social networks, and lower access to formal sector jobs through these networks. The evidence is consistent with a “ethnic capital” explanation for the persistence of educational inequality in Muslim majority areas.