Impact of technological progress on carbon emissions in different country income groups

This study examines the complex relationship between carbon emissions and technological progress in a sample of 60 countries, divided into four categories based on their per capita income between the periods of 1989-2018. For robustness purposes and due to the broad definition of technology, we use six different proxies to represent technology; namely: Information and […]

Health inequality and the 1918 Influenza in South Africa

The 1918 influenza – the Spanish flu – killed an estimated 6% of South Africans. Not all were equally affected. Mortality rates were particularly high in districts with a large share of black and coloured residents. To investigate why this happened, we transcribed 39,482 death certificates from the Cape Province. Using a novel indicator – […]

Trade Openness and Fertility Rates in Africa: Panel Data Evidence

We study the effect of trade openness on fertility rates in fifty African countries during the1962 – 2010 period. By disaggregating the trade openness data in novel ways, and allowing for country and time fixed effects, our results indicate that trade openness and imports of manufactured goods are significantly related to lower fertility. Furthermore, trade […]

Black living standards in South Africa before democracy: New evidence from heights

Very little income or wage data was systematically recorded on the living standards of South Africa’s black majority during much of the twentieth century. Between 1911 and 1996, for example, only fragmentary evidence of black living standards remain in mining reports and manufacturing censuses, often at a too generalised level or of too short time-span […]

Intergenerational mobility during industrial take-off

Using a novel dataset of genealogical records, we make the first attempt to measure the social mobility of white South Africans during this revolutionary period in the country’s economic history. We investigate both absolute and relative social mobility. To do this we employed several methods, in the aim of providing a comprehensive account of intergenerational […]

Why local context matters: de jure and de facto property rights in colonial South Africa

For economic transactions, including debt transactions, to occur in a market system, property rights are essential. The literature has focussed on finding empirical proof of the effect of property right regimes, noting differences between de jure and de facto property rights. Yet most of these studies focus on macroeconomic outcomes, like economic growth and public […]

Social mobility during South Africa’s industrial take-off

In the absence of historical income or education data, the change in occupations over time can be used as a measure of social mobility. This paper investigates intergenerational occupational mobility using a novel genealogical dataset for settler South Africa, spanning its transition from an agricultural to an early industrialized society (1800–1909). We identify fathers and […]

User Fee Abolition in South Africa: 1994 and 1996

In addition to birthing a new Democracy, 1994 was the beginning of a number of changes for health care delivery in South Africa. Officially, on June 1, 1994, public health care user fees were abolished for a wide swath of the population. As long as young children (those under six years of age), elderly adults […]

When selection trumps persistence: The lasting effect of missionary education in South Africa

To estimate the long-term, persistent effects of missionary education requires two strong assumptions: that mission station settlement is uncorrelated with other economic variables, such as soil quality and access to markets, and 2) that selection into (and out of) mission stations is unimportant. Both these assumptions are usually not sufficiently addressed, which renders the interpretation […]

The missing people: Accounting for indigenous populations in Cape Colonial history

Because information about the livelihoods of indigenous groups is often missing from colonial records, their presence usually escapes attention in quantitative estimates of colonial economic activity. This is nowhere more apparent than in the eighteenth-century Dutch Cape Colony, where the role of the Khoesan in Cape production, despite being frequently acknowledged, has been almost completely […]

The Impact of the Slave Trade on Literacy in Africa: Evidence from the Colonial Era

Recent studies have highlighted the importance of Africa’s history of slave exporting to its current economic development. In this paper I show that differences in investment in education may be one of the channels through which that history has affected current development. I combine data on literacy rates of administrative districts from the colonial censuses […]

A country of migrants: Advances in South African economic history

South Africa is a country of migrants. From the Bantu migration, the arrival of Dutch settlers in the seventeenth century and British settlers in the nineteenth century to the internal movement of black tribes after the Mfecane, the Great Trek of settler farmers, and the inflow of African workers to the mines, South African history […]

Heights and development in a Cash-Crop Colony: Living standards in Ghana, 1870-1980

While Ghana is a classic case of economic growth in an agricultural‐export colony, scholars have queried whether it was sustained, and how far its benefits were widely distributed, socially and regionally. Using height as a measure of human well‐being we explore the evolution of living standards and regional inequality in Ghana from 1870 to 1980. […]

Slave numeracy in the Cape Colony and comparative development in the eighteenth century

The lack of accurate measures of human capital formation often constrain investigations into the long-run determinants of growth and comparative economic development, especially in regions such as Africa. Using the reported age of criminals in the Courts of Justice records in the Cape Archive, this paper documents, for the first time, the levels of and […]

The wealth of the Cape Colony: Measurements from probate inventories

The stylized view of the Dutch Cape Colony (1652-1795) is of a poor, subsistence economy, with little progress in the first 143 years of Dutch rule. New evidence from probate inventory and auction roll records show that previous estimates about wealth at the Cape are inaccurate. In contrast to earlier historical accounts, the inventories reveal […]

Settler skills and colonial development

The emphasis on location-specific factors, such as climate or disease environment, in the explanation of development outcomes in colonial societies implicitly assumes that settler groups were homogenous. Using tax records, this paper shows that the French Huguenots who immigrated to Dutch South Africa at the end of the 17th century were more productive wine-makers than […]

A history with evidence: Income inequality in the Dutch Cape Colony

The arrival of European settlers at the Cape in 1652 marked the beginning of what would seemingly become an extremely unequal society, with ramifications into modern-day South Africa. In this paper, we measure the income inequality at three different points over the first century of Dutch rule at the Cape. What emerges from the study […]

Ship traffic and the economy of the Cape Colony: 1652-1793

Most historians regard the Cape Colony of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as an impoverished and destitute settlement, primarily because of the many restrictions and prohibitions enforced by the Dutch East India Company, who founded the Cape settlement as a refreshment station for its ships. The mercantilist thinking of the time ensured that the free […]

Slavery and economic history research in South Africa – An ERSA Research Workshop

The fourth ERSA Economic History Workshop in November will focus on African colonial history with an emphasis on the issue of African slavery. It will also provide us with an opportunity to finalize details about papers for a possible publication on the incorporation of ‘new economic history’ and its techniques and questions to the Southern […]