Soeren Henn

Complements or Substitutes? How Institutional Arrangements Bind Traditional Authorities and the State in Africa

Abstract: How does the central state affect public goods provision by local actors? I study the effect of state capacity on local governance in sub-Saharan Africa, which I argue depends on whether traditional authorities are integrated in the country’s constitution. I use distance to administrative headquarters as a measure of state capacity and estimate a regression discontinuity design around administrative boundaries. If traditional authorities are not integrated, then the state and traditional authorities compete with each other, working as substitutes. That is, a stronger state undermines the power of traditional authorities. If traditional authorities are integrated, then the two work as complements. A stronger state then increases the power of traditional authorities. I show that these relationships are crucial to understanding the influence of state capacity on local economic development.

American Political Science Review

The University of Chicago