DP12811 Can autocracy promote literacy? evidence from a cultural alignment success story

Author(s): Nuno Pedro G. Palma, Jaime Brown Reis
Publication Date: March 2018
Date Revised: April 2021
Keyword(s): Anthropometrics, economic history of education, political economy of development, public schooling provison
JEL(s): H41, I24, I25, N33, N34, O12
Programme Areas: Development Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12811

Do countries with less democratic forms of government necessarily have lower literacy rates as a consequence? Using a random sample of more than 9000 individuals from military archives in 20th century Portugal, we show that 20-year old males were 50% more likely to end up literate under a nondemocratic regime than under a more democratic one. Our results are robust to controlling for a host of factors including economic growth, the disease environment, and regional fixed-effects. We argue for a political economy and cultural explanation for the relative success of the authoritarian regime in promoting basic education.