11/14/2016 Colloquium Series - Leonard Wantchekon: “The Curse of Good Soil? Land Fertility, Roads, and Rural Poverty in Africa”
From David Price
Using a global poverty map and standard soil productivity measures, we find that the poorest districts in Africa are more likely to have better (not worse) soil quality and that land fertility is higher in districts with worse roads. Our results are robust to a battery of controls and alternative measures of poverty and soil quality. The results indicate that transportation costs are the main drivers of poverty in Africa and that isolation might turn soil quality into a curse. More specifically, in districts with poor infrastructure, the poverty rate increases as soil quality gets better. We provide evidence for causality by using least-cost paths from mining areas to ports, and colonial road networks, as instruments for current transportation costs.