DP12811 | Can autocracy promote literacy? evidence from a cultural alignment success story

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Do countries with less democratic forms of government have lower literacy rates as a consequence? Using a random sample of 4,600+ individuals from military archives in Portugal, we show that 20-year old males were twice as likely to end up literate under an authoritarian regime than under a democratic one. Our results are robust to controlling for a host of factors including economic growth, the disease environment, and regional fixed effects. We argue for a political economy and cultural explanation for the success of the authoritarian regime in promoting basic education.