A Curse of ‘Point Source’ Resources? Cash Crops and Numeracy on the Philippines 19th-20th Century


Does the shift from subsistence agriculture to a specialization in cash-crop production affect human capital? We assess the influence of the rapid expansion of the cultivation of cash crops for export in the mid and late 19th century Philippines, with a focus on the increase or decline of basic numeracy. Based on the historiography, we expect the expansion of cash crops (in 19th century Philippines, mostly abac√°, sugar, and tobacco) to have a negative effect on human capital of the majority of the population during the first phase. To test this hypothesis, we mobilize a new and large data set based on age statements from parish records, which includes 228,853 underlying observations. This is the first long term quantitative study on numeracy in a Southeast Asian country. We aggregate the individual observations by 41 provinces and the birth decades from the 1800s to the 1930s in order to obtain a large and informative panel (panel observations based on less than 50 underlying age statements are dropped). This allows us to compare regional levels of numeracy before, during, and after the introduction of the three main cash crops.

Report No.: HIAS-E-22
Author(s): Jean-Pascal Bassino(a), (b)
Joerg Baten(c), (d)
Affiliation: (a) ENS Lyon, France
(b) Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study, Japan
(c) University of Tuebingen and CESifo, Germany
(d) CEPR, UK
Issued Date: March 2016
Keywords: cash crops, human capital, numeracy, age heaping, Philippines, sugar, abaca
JEL: I25, N3, N5, O13, O53