Discussion paper

DP10333 A Colonial Legacy of African Gender Inequality? Evidence from Christian Kampala, 1895-2011

The colonial legacy of African underdevelopment is widely debated but hard to document. We use occupational statistics from Protestant marriage registers of historical Kampala to investigate the hypothesis that African gender inequality and female disempowerment are rooted in colonial times. We find that the arrival of Europeans in Uganda ignited a century-long transformation of Kampala involving a gender Kuznets curve. Men rapidly acquired literacy and quickly found their way into white-collar (high-status) employment in the wage economy built by the Europeans. Women took somewhat longer to obtain literacy and considerably longer to enter into white-collar and waged work. This led to increased gender inequality during the first half of the colonial period. But gender inequality gradually declined during the latter half of the colonial era, and after Uganda?s independence in 1962 its level was not significantly different from that of pre-colonial times. Our data also support Boserup?s view that gender inequality was rooted in indigenous social norms: daughters of African men who worked in the traditional, informal economy were less well educated, less frequently employed in formal work, and more often subjected to marital gender inequality than daughters of men employed in the modernized, formal economy created by the Europeans.


Weisdorf, J (2015), ‘DP10333 A Colonial Legacy of African Gender Inequality? Evidence from Christian Kampala, 1895-2011‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 10333. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp10333