Theses Doctoral

Essays on Inequality and Social Cohesion

Rink, Anselm F.

This dissertation comprises three essays that explore determinants of inequality and social cohesion. The first essay explores the role of inheritance customs in spurring social equality. Using historical data on inheritance customs in Germany, I document that municipalities that historically fairly shared wealth among siblings see higher levels of social equality today. I point to two mechanisms that help explain the correlation: increased wealth equality and stronger pro-egalitarian preferences. Interestingly, I also find that equitably inheriting communities are associated with higher incomes and greater income inequality. I interpret this finding to mean that equitable inheritance levels the playing field by rewarding talent not hereditary status. The second essay analyzes how Protestant missions affect community cohesion. Exploiting variation in missionary activity in southeastern Peru, I document that villages exposed to missions have lower levels of community cohesion compared to non-exposed villages. I adjudicate between two mechanisms that may explain this finding - social networks and pro-social preferences - and find the latter to be more plausible. The third essay expands on this finding by implementing a field experiment with a missionary group in South Sudan in order to parse out the causal effect of Protestant evangelism on social capital. Using attitudinal and behavioral measures, I document that missionaries lower group-level social capital while increasing individual-level pro-social behavior. Taken together, my dissertation adds theoretical considerations and empirical evidence to a broad debate in the social sciences that tries to make sense of variation in social equality and cohesion.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Humphreys, Macartan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 20, 2017