Does colonial history matter for development? In Sub-Saharan Africa, economists have argued that the British colonial legacy was more growth-inducing than others, especially through its effect on education. This paper uses the division of German Kamerun between the British and the French after WWI as a natural experiment to identify the causal effect of colonizer identity on education. Using exhaustive geolocated census data, I estimate a border discontinuity for various cohorts over the 20th century: the British effect on education is positive for individuals of school age in the 1920s and 1930s; it quickly fades away in the late colonial period and eventually becomes negative, favoring the French side. In the most recent cohorts, I find no border discontinuity in primary education, but I do find a positive British effect in secondary school completion — likely explained by a higher rate of grade repetition in the francophone system. I also find a strong, positive British effect on the percentage of Christians for all cohorts. I argue that my results are best explained by supply factors: before WWII, the British colonial government provided incentives for missions to supply formal education and allowed local governments to open public schools, but the British effect was quickly smoothed away by an increase in French education investments in the late colonial period. Though the divergence in human capital did not persist, its effect on religion was highly persistent.
Yannick's research interests are development economics, economic history, political economy and econometrics. He is particularly interested in the economic history and development of Sub-Saharan Africa.