Journal article

Christian missions and anti-gay attitudes in Africa

Maxim Ananyev, Michael Poyker



We argue that colonial Christian missions had a long-term impact on anti-gay attitudes in Africa. We use a geo-coded representative survey of African countries and the location of historical Christian missions to estimate a significant and economically meaningful association between proximity to historical missions and anti-gay sentiments today. Using anthropological data on pre-colonial acceptance of homosexual practices among indigenous groups, we show that the establishment of missions, while nonrandom, was exogenous to pre-existing same-sex patterns among indigenous population. The estimated effect is driven by persons of Christian faith and statistically indistinguishable from zero on s..

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Funding Acknowledgements

The previous version of this paper circulated under a title "Organized Religion and Origins of Norms: Evidence from Africa." We are grateful to Victoria Baranov, Augustin Bergeron, Ashley Blum, Paola Giuliano, Pauline Grosjean, Sergei Guriev, Morgan Kelly, Mark Koyama, Daniel Posner, Yuan Tian, Nico Voigtlander, Romain Wacziarg, and conference participants at AASLE, ASREC, NEUDC, OzClio, PacDev and Workshop on Natural Experiments in History for excellent suggestions. The paper benefited substantially from suggestions by the editor and three anonymous referees. We are grateful to Valeria Rueda who generously provided historical mission data, Matthias Kronke who generously provided geo-coded Afrobarometer data, and Jaime Diez-Medrano who helped us navigate through the World Values Survey data. Poyker is grateful for financial support from the Institute for New Economic Thinking and Institute for Humane Studies. All errors are ours.