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Department ofEconomics


Reading Fiction and Economic Preferences of Rural Youth in Burkina Faso

Michael Kevane

Economic Development and Cultural Change 68 (3), pp. 1041–1079, April 2020


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This paper presents results from a reading program for youth living in villages in south-western Burkina Faso. Standard experimental games were used to measure the effects of increased reading of fiction on several attitudes and preferences important for economic development. After six months of access and encouragement to read appropriate young adult fiction, there were few differences in any of four measured outcomes (trust, contribution to public goods, risk, and patience) between those participating in the reading program and the control group. Since the rise of mass-distributed novels in the 1800s, many have hypothesized that fiction would have significant effects on the values and preferences of readers. Advocates of fiction have argued that readers develop better intuitions about the interior lives of themselves and of others. These enhanced intuitions might change social behavior and actions that influence future selves. The null results presented here suggest the relevance of more research on this question, as countries in sub-Saharan Africa devote public resources to fund reading promotion programs in and out of school.


LSB Research, Econ, 2020, Michael Kevane