I wrote several months ago about a long-term project on the colonial origins of local economic governance in Java, and in particular, on the importance of ethnicity and colonial migration. The first substantial output of that project is now available. Here is the abstract:
The social exclusion of trading minorities—Lebanese in West Africa, and Indians in East Africa and the Caribbean, Chinese in Southeast Asia—is common across post-colonial states. This paper uses demographic data from the 1930 Census of the Netherlands Indies to study the long term effects of the social exclusion of trading minorities in Java on contemporary economic governance. I show that districts in Java that were densely settled by Chinese migrants in 1930 have more accommodative business-government relations today. To highlight the importance of social exclusion rather than other factors that may differentiate colonial districts with large Chinese populations, I exploit variation in the settlement patterns of Chinese and Arab trading communities in Java, which played comparable roles in the island’s colonial economy but faced different degrees of social exclusion. These findings contribute to recent work on the colonial origins of development, ethnicity and informal institutions, and the historical origins of democratic performance.
The full working paper is available here. Comments, as always, are very welcome.
I am particularly excited about the disciplinary border-crossing in this project, drawing on some classical works in Indologie (all the way back to van den Berg 1886!) as well as the theoretical insights from the (not so new) New Institutional Economics. EDIT: Obviously, this recalls my earlier post on Morck and Yeung, economics, and history. The goal is to have history complement my not-so-super-duper regressions.