State Reach and Development in Africa since the 1960s: New Data and Analysis


Prominent arguments hold that African states’ geography limits state capacity, impedes public service provision, and slows economic development. To test this argument, I collect comprehensive panel data on a proxy of local state capacity, travel times to national and regional capitals. These are computed on a yearly 5x5km grid using time-varying data on roads and administrative units (1966-2016). I use these data to estimate the effect of changes in travel times to capitals on local education provision, infant mortality rates, and nightlight emissions. Within the same location, development outcomes generally improve as travel times to its capitals decrease. These data and results improve the measurement of state capacity and contribute to the understanding of its effects on human welfare. The data are available on this Github page.

Political Science Research and Methods, 11(3), 663–672