Is Ethnic Diversity a Tragedy for Public good Provision in Africa?

Pioneer investigations of the economic consequences of ethnic diversity – a ubiquitous feature of African societies – found a strong and negative correlation. The present paper revisits this “diversity burden” conjecture, by using (1) newly available, better-quality data-sets allowing for sub-national estimations and multiple robustness checks, and (2) a new instrument, a pre-colonial measure of ethnic diversity, to explore causality. We find that the impact of ethnic diversity depends on the public good and the specification considered. Overall, completely heterogeneous societies produce 3 percent less public goods than their homogeneous counterparts, a negative but more limited effect than previously found.