Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, Department of Economics, University College London
Research Fellow, CGD Europe
Islamic law lays down detailed rules regulating the upbringing of children. In this month's Sandwich Seminar, Marco Alfano examines the effect of these rules on parental behaviour by exploiting a unique natural experiment: the introduction of Sharia law in 13 northern Nigerian states in 2000.
Using a triple difference specification, Alfano contrasts how outcomes have changed for both Muslim and Christian children in states that enacted Sharia law and those that did not. Also relying on spatial regression discontinuity techniques, he shows that Sharia has had a positive effect on both fertility and how long mothers chose to breastfeed their babies.
The evidence further suggests that the Sharia has impacted on parental behaviour by increasing the economic returns to sons and by raising the value of conspicuous adherence to Islamic laws and customs. Moreover, a duration analysis reveals that the Sharia has increased the survival rate of newly born children. By contrast, it has had a negative impact on the survival rate of children aged 1 to 4. In particular, the survival rate of young girls has suffered under Sharia Law in Nigeria.
The CGD Europe Sandwich Seminars bring some of the world's leading development scholars to discuss their new research and ideas. The presentations aim to meet an academic standard of quality, are at times technical, and retain a focus on a mixed audience of researchers and policy-makers.