How did Christianity expand in Africa to become the continent’s dominant religion? Using annual panel census data on Christian missions from 1751 to 1932 in Ghana, and pre-1924 data on missions for 43 sub-Saharan African countries, we estimate causal effects of malaria, railroads and cash crops on mission location. We find that missions were established in healthier, more accessible, and richer places before expanding to economically less developed places. We argue that the endogeneity of missionary expansion may have been underestimated, thus questioning the link between missions and economic development for Africa. We find the endogeneity problem exacerbated when mission data is sourced from Christian missionary atlases that disproportionately report a selection of prominent missions that were also established early.
(co-authored with Remi Jedwab and Alexander Moradi)