Published by Journal of Development Economics
Year published 2023

We investigate the long-run impacts of Christian missions on female genital cutting (FGC) in Africa. Our empirical analysis draws on historical data on the locations of early European missions geographically matched with Demographic and Health Survey data on FGC practices of around 410,000 respondents from 42 surveys performed over a 30-year period in 14 African countries. We use ethnographic data on pre-colonial FGC to show that the location of missions was not correlated with the practice of FGC in the local population. Our benchmark estimates imply that a person living 10 km from a historical mission is 4–6 percentage points less likely to have undergone FGC than someone living 100 km from a mission site. Similarly, an additional mission per 1000 km2 in one's ancestral ethnic homeland decreases the probability of having undergone FGC by around 8 percentage points. The effect is robust to numerous specifications and control variables.