IZA DP No. 10998: Decolonization, Property Rights and Language Conflicts
We model political contestation over school language policy, within linguistic communities where weak property rights protection leads to high decentralized expropriation. We show that improvements in governance institutions that facilitate property rights protection might exacerbate such language conflicts, even as they reduce the chances of persisting with educational indigenization, while, paradoxically, increasing the net social benefit from doing so. Our findings offer explanations of why languages and cultures of the colonizers continue to play a dominant role in the educational systems of most post-colonial developing societies, and why early post-independence attempts at cultural-linguistic indigenization were either reversed or slowed down subsequently. The main policy implication of our analysis relates to the connection it establishes between property rights protection and the welfare consequences of educational indigenization: such indigenization may improve social welfare when weak institutions lead to weak property rights protection, but reduce it otherwise.