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War and Welfare in Colonial Algeria

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 February 2023

Gabriel Koehler-Derrick*
Department of Political Science, New York University Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Melissa M. Lee
Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:
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A distinguishing feature of the modern state is the broad scope of social welfare provision. This remarkable expansion of public assistance was characterized by huge spatial and temporal disparities. What explains the uneven expansion in the reach of social welfare? We argue that social welfare expansion depends in part on the ability of the governed to compel the state to provide rewards in return for military service—and crucially, that marginalized groups faced greater barriers to obtaining those rewards. In colonial states, subjects faced a bargaining disadvantage relative to citizens living in the colony and were less likely to win concessions from the state for their wartime sacrifices. We test this argument using a difference-in-differences research design and a rich data set of local spending before and after World War I in colonial Algeria. Our results reveal that social welfare spending expanded less in communes where the French subject share of the population was greater. This paper contributes to the state-building literature by highlighting the differential ability of the governed to bargain with the state in the aftermath of conflict.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The IO Foundation

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