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Inequality and Uneven Development in Ghana

Prince Young Aboagye Lund University


This dissertation investigates the extent and evolution of income and educational inequality, as well as governments’ tax and expenditure policies and their implications for inequality in Ghana over the long-term. The results of the dissertation are presented in four-thematically related papers.

Paper I uses a social tables approach to measure the extent of income inequality in colonial Ghana and in the early years of Ghana’s independence. The paper finds that income inequality was high prior to the adoption of cocoa cultivation in the last decade of the 19th century. Inequality remained fairly stable in the decades that followed, declined in the global depression years of the 1930s and increased in the closing decades of the colonial era.

Paper II examines inequalities in education and assesses how economic constraints affected educational demand and the diffusion of education. The paper finds that differences in educational spread reflected differences in demand, and that, the educational sector mirrored existing socio-economic inequalities, it did not alter them.

Paper III bridges the colonial and post-colonial historiographical divide and examines continuities and changes in governments’ fiscal policies and their effects on inequality. The paper finds that governments’ tax and expenditure policies have had limited effects on inequality because of their low levels and limited coverage.

Finally, Paper IV based on a historical analysis of four major tax reforms in Ghana from the 1850s to the late 1990s, captures the various ways in which state-society interactions limit the state’s fiscal capacity. The paper demonstrates that reciprocity and fiscal contracts between governments and society are the foundation of effective taxation.