DP17112 The Demographic Effects of Colonialism: Forced Labor and Mortality in Java, 1834-1879

Author(s): Pim De Zwart, Daniel Gallardo Albarrán, Auke Rijpma
Publication Date: March 2022
Keyword(s): Colonialism, Demography, Forced labor, Infectious disease, mortality
JEL(s): J11, J47, N35, N55
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=17112

We investigate the demographic effects of forced labor under an extractive colonial regime: the Cultivation System in nineteenth-century Java. Our panel analyses show that labor demands are strongly associated with mortality rates, likely resulting from malnourishment and unhygienic conditions on plantations and the spread of infectious diseases. An instrumental variable approach, using international market prices for coffee and sugar for predicting labor demands, addresses potential endogeneity concerns. Our estimates suggest that without the abolition of the Cultivation System average overall mortality in Java would have been between 10 and 30 percent higher by the late 1870s.