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State building and state capacity


State building and state capacity are central to development. We analyze these questions from different angles: 


State building Using data from colonial archives for a historical perspective, we analyze the French colonial Empire and compare French and British public finances in colonized West Africa. We also study the connection of the colonial period with the postcolonial, from the independence era until today.

State capacity Parallel research relates to how to evaluate and improve state capacity itself. We explore law enforcement and how state capacity matters for the provision of public services, in particular due to the potential for corruption. Both theoretical and empirical approaches are developed.

Conflict A strand of research relates to conflict. We analyze both the determinants and consequences of the strength of ethnic identification. Additional work includes the strategies of actors engaged in violent conflict (i.e. state actors, insurgency groups, and civilians). This work includes identifying policies that contribute to conflict resolution and the protection of civilians in conflict zones.




Other on-going projects

South Asia

Imbert, Clement, Chinmaya Kumar, Nishith Prakash, and Oliver Vanden Eynde. Political Change, Economic Growth, and Crime Reduction in Bihar.

Shapiro, Jacob N., and Oliver Vanden Eynde. Mapping Rural Infrastructure Development in India.

Vanden Eynde, Oliver, and Liam Wren-Lewis. Complementarities in the Impacts of Infrastructure Projects: Evidence from Indian Agriculture.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Cogneau, Denis. The Political Economy of Conscription and Taxation in French Colonial Africa.

Cogneau, Denis, Marc Gurgand, Justine Knebelmann, Victor Pouliquen, and Bassirou Sarr. 2020. Bringing Property Owners into the Tax Net: Avenues of Fiscal Capacity and Local Accountability.

Cogneau, Denis, Yannick Dupraz, and Sandrine Mesplé-Somps. 2019. Public Finance and Investment in the French Colonial Empire.

Cogneau, Denis, Yannick Dupraz, Justine Knebelmann, and Sandrine Mesplé-Somps. 2020. Taxation in Africa from Colonial Times to Present.

Knebelmann, Justine. 2020. The (Un)Hidden Wealth of the City: Property Taxation under Weak Enforcement in Senegal.

Related working papers

Alesina, Alberto, Marlon Seror, David Y. Yang, Yang You, and Weihong Zeng. 2020. “Persistence through Revolutions.”

Alesina, Alberto, Marlon Seror, David Y. Yang, Yan Almunia, Miguel, Jonas Hjort, Justine Knebelmann, and Tian Lin. 2020. “Information, Fiscal Capacity and Tax Enforcement: An Experimental Evaluation.”

Almunia, Miguel, Jonas Hjort, Justine Knebelmann, and Tian Lin. 2020. “Strategic or Confused Firms? Evidence from ‘Missing’ Transactions in Uganda.”

Alvaredo, Facundo, Denis Cogneau, and Thomas Piketty. 2020. “Income Inequality under Colonial Rule: Evidence from French Algeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, and Vietnam and Comparisons with British Colonies 1920-1960,” June.

Barrera, Oscar. “Political Influence on Homicide Reports under Civil Conflict.”

Ben Salem, Melika, and Barbara Castelleti-Font. 2016. “The Long-Run Dynamics of the Real Sovereign Bonds: What Can We Learn from Net Foreign Assets.

Cogneau, Denis, and Kenneth Houngbedji. 2016. “Electrification in Africa from 1995 to 2019,” July.

Cogneau, Denis, and Léa Rouanet. 2015. “Capital Exit from Developing Countries: Measurement and Correlates,” January.

Cogneau, Denis, and Yannick Dupraz. 2014. “Questionable Inference on the Power of Pre-Colonial Institutions in Africa.”

Hansen-Lewis, Jamie, Jacob N. Shapiro, Oliver Vanden Eynde, and Austin Wright. “Connecting the Red Corridor: Infrastructure Development in Conflict Zones.”

Lehne, Jonathan. “Administering Voter Suppression? Evidence from 140 Million Voters’ Registrations in India.”

Lehne, Jonathan. “Irrigation vs Education: The Long Run Effects of Opium Cultivation in British India.”

Rouanet, Léa. “Colonial Health Policies in Former French West Africa: Main Determinants.”

Seror, Marlon. 2019. “Random River: Trade and Rent Extraction in Imperial China.”

Shapiro, Jacob N., and Oliver Vanden Eynde. 2020. “Fiscal Incentives for Conflict: Evidence From India’s Red Corridor,” May.

Related Publications

Barrera, Oscar, Segei Guriev, Emeric Henry, and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya. 2020. “Facts, Alternative Facts, and Fact Checking in Times of Post-Truth Politics.” Journal of Public Economics 182.

Fetzer, Thiemo, Pedro Cl Souza, Oliver Vanden Eynde, and Austin Wright. 2020. “Security Transitions,” March.

Dupraz, Yannick. 2019. “French and British Colonial Legacies in Education: Evidence from the Partition of Cameroon.” The Journal of Economic History 79 (September): 628–68.

Estrada, Ricardo. 2019. “Rules versus Discretion in Public Service: Teacher Hiring in Mexico.” Journal of Labor Economics 37 (2): 545–79.

Benhassine, Najy, David McKenzie, Victor Pouliquen, and Massimiliano Santini. 2018. “Does Inducing Informal Firms to Formalize Make Sense? Experimental Evidence from Benin.” Journal of Public Economics 157 (C): 1–14.

Eynde, Oliver Vanden. 2018. “Targets of Violence: Evidence from India’s Naxalite Conflict.” Economic Journal 128 (609): 887–916.

Eynde, Oliver Vanden, Patrick M. Kuhn, and Alexander Moradi. 2018. “Trickle-Down Ethnic Politics: Drunk and Absent in the Kenya Police Force (1957-1970).” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 10 (3): 388–417.

Lehne, Jonathan, Jacob N. Shapiro, and Oliver Vanden Eynde. 2018. “Building Connections: Political Corruption and Road Construction in India.” Journal of Development Economics 131 (C): 62–78.

Okunogbe, Oyebola, and Victor Pouliquen. 2018. “Technology, Taxation and Corruption: Evidence from the Introduction of Electronic Tax Filing.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 8452, May.

Silve, Arthur, and Thierry Verdier. 2018. “A Theory of Regional Conflict Complexes.” Journal of Development Economics 133 (July): 434–47.

Silve, Arthur, and Thierry Verdier. 2018. “Fragilité Régionale, Capacité de l’État et Guerre Civile.” Revue Économique 69 (6): 937–60.

Cogneau, Denis, Léo Czajka, and Kenneth Houngbedji. 2017. “The Triumphant Elephant’s Return? Growth and Income Inequality in Côte d’Ivoire (1988-2015).” Afrique Contemporaine No 263-264 (3): 221–25.

Ghatak, Maitreesh, and Oliver Vanden Eynde. 2017. “Economic Determinants of the Maoist Conflict in India.” Economic & Political Weekly 52 (39).

Cogneau, Denis. 2016. “History, Data and Economics for Africa: Can We Get Them Less Wrong?: Reply to Morten Jerven’s ‘Trapped between Tragedies and Miracles: Misunderstanding African Economic Growth.” Development Policy Review 34 (6): 895–99.

Cogneau, Denis. 2016. “Histoire économique de l’Afrique : renaissance ou trompe-l’œil ?” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 71e année (4): 879–96.

Eynde, Oliver Vanden. 2016. “Military Service and Human Capital Accumulation: Evidence from Colonial Punjab.” Journal of Human Resources 51 (4): 1003–35.

Burgess, Robin, Remi Jedwab, Edward Miguel, Ameet Morjaria, and Gerard Padró i Miquel. 2015. “The Value of Democracy: Evidence from Road Building in Kenya.” American Economic Review 105 (6): 1817–51.

Cogneau, Denis. 2015. “Frederick Cooper Africa in the World: Capitalism, Empire, Nation-State Cambridge/Londres, Harvard University Press, 2014, XII-130 p.” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 70 (1): 259–61.

Cogneau, Denis, and Yannick Dupraz. 2015. “Institutions historiques et développement économique en Afrique. Une revue sélective et critique de travaux récents.” Histoire & mesure (XXX–1): 103–34.

Cogneau, Denis, Sandrine Mesplé-Somps, and Gilles Spielvogel. 2015. “Development at the Border: Policies and National Integration in Côte D’Ivoire and Its Neighbors.” The World Bank Economic Review 29 (1): 41–71.

Estache, Antonio, Tomas Serebrisky, and Liam Wren-Lewis. 2015. “Financing Infrastructure in Developing Countries.” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 31 (3–4): 279–304.

Wren-Lewis, Liam. 2015. “Do Infrastructure Reforms Reduce the Effect of Corruption? Theory and Evidence from Latin America and the Caribbean.” World Bank Economic Review 29 (2): 353–84.

Cogneau, Denis, and Alexander Moradi. 2014. “Borders That Divide: Education and Religion in Ghana and Togo since Colonial Times.” Journal of Economic History 74 (3): 694–728.

Huillery, Elise. 2014. “The Black Man’s Burden: The Cost of Colonization of French West Africa.” The Journal of Economic History 74 (1): 1–38.

Wren-Lewis, Liam. 2014. “Utility Regulation in Africa: How Relevant Is the British Model?” Utilities Policy 31 (C): 203–5.

Cogneau, Denis. 2013. “Jean-Pierre Dozon. Les Clefs de la crise ivoirienne.” Afrique contemporaine n° 245 (1): 141–43.

Wren-Lewis, Liam. 2013. “Commitment in Utility Regulation: A Model of Reputation and Policy Applications.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 89 (C): 210–31.

Bourguignon, François, and Thierry Verdier. 2012. “The Simple Analytics of Elite Behaviour under Limited State Capacity.” In The Role of Elites in Economic Development, edited by Alice H. Amsden, Alisa DiCaprio, and James A. Robinson. Oxford University Press.

Cogneau, Denis. 2012. “The Political Dimension of Inequality during Economic Development.” Région et Développement 35: 11–36.

Huillery, Elise. 2011. “The Impact of European Settlement within French West Africa: Did Pre-Colonial Prosperous Areas Fall Behind?” Journal of African Economies 20 (2): 263–311.

Macours, Karen. 2011. “Increasing Inequality and Civil Conflict in Nepal.” Oxford Economic Papers 63 (1): 1–26.

Vranken, Liesbet, Karen Macours, Nivelin Noev, and Johan Swinnen. 2011. “Property Rights Imperfections and Asset Allocation: Co-Ownership in Bulgaria.” Journal of Comparative Economics 39 (2): 159–75.

Macours, Karen, Alain de Janvry, and Elisabeth Sadoulet. 2010. “Insecurity of Property Rights and Social Matching in the Tenancy Market.” European Economic Review 54 (7): 880–99.

Huillery, Elise. 2009. “History Matters: The Long-Term Impact of Colonial Public Investments in French West Africa.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 1 (2): 176–215.

Chauvet, Lisa, Denis Cogneau, and Jean-David Naudet. 2008. “Sélectivité et Égalité Des Chances dans l’allocation de l’aide Internationale: Une Analyse de La Dernière Décennie.” Économie et Prévision 186 (5).

Cogneau, Denis, and Jean-David Naudet. 2007. “Who Deserves Aid? Equality of Opportunity, International Aid, and Poverty Reduction.” World Development 35 (1): 104–20.