The long-term effects of the printing press in Sub-Saharan Africa

Type Journal Article - American Economic Journal: Applied Economics
Title The long-term effects of the printing press in Sub-Saharan Africa
Volume 8
Issue 3
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
Page numbers 69-99
This article examines the long-term consequences of the introduction of the printing
press in the 19th century on newspaper readership and other civic attitudes in sub-Saharan
Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, Protestant missionaries were the first both to import the
printing press technology and to allow the indigenous population to use it. We build a new
geocoded dataset locating Protestant missions in 1903. This dataset includes, for each
mission station, the geographic location and its characteristics, as well as the educational
and health related investments undertaken by the mission. We show that proximity to
a historical missionary settlement endowed with a printing press significantly increases
newspaper readership today within regions located close to historical mission settlements.
We also find a positive impact on political participation at the community level. Results
are robust to a variety of identification strategies that attempt to address the potential
endogenous selection of missions into printing and externalities on education and literacy.

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