Colonial Institutions, Trade Shocks, and the Diffusion of Elementary Education in Brazil, 1889-1930
The rise of education has featured prominently in the debate on the sources of modern long-term economic growth. Existing accounts stress the role of public education and the importance of political support for its provision. We argue that such an explanation for the spread of schooling is probably a poor fit for many nations’ schooling histories and provide an example, using detailed data on schooling supply from the Habsburg Empire. We show that while economic development made schooling more affordable and widespread, the politics of demand for schools was not motivated by expectations of economic development but by the ongoing conflict between nationalities within the Empire. We find that public schools were scarcely useful from an economic point of view, yet they did enjoy significant political and financial support from local political elites, if they offered the “right” language of instruction. Our results suggest that, for some countries at least, the main link, historically, went from economic development to public schooling, not the other way round. Note: Tomas Cvrcek, John E. Walker Department of Economics, Clemson University, 229 Sirrine Hall, Clemson, SC 29630, email@example.com. Miroslav Zajicek, Vysoka Skola ekonomicka/University of Economics, Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org. We thank Jeremy Atack and the participants of Clemson Public Economics Workshop for their useful comments. All errors are our own.