KJ Wendland, SK Pattanayak, and EO Sills. “Democracy and Dictatorship: Comparing household innovation across the border of Benin and Togo”
The technology adoption literature suggests that micro-level factors, such as resource endowments and household preferences, determine adoption of new innovations. However, few adoption studies look across national boundaries and consider the effects that macro-level factors have on the adoption process. We test the hypothesis that national level differences impact this technology adoption process by exploiting a quasi-experimental situation—villages on either side of the international border at the remote northern tip of Benin and Togo. We use binary choice models and matching estimators to measure the effect of national-level differences on the adoption of new technologies. Our microeconomic analysis suggests that ceteris paribus households in Benin are more likely to adopt soybean farming, build improved cookstoves, and purchase mosquito nets—three technologies that bring a combination of agricultural, environmental, and health impacts to rural households—than Togo. While we cannot identify the exact cause for these differences, empirical and anecdotal evidence points to divergences in governance—including political institutions and state capacity and effectiveness—that have occurred since the 1990s as the primary factor. These findings suggest that national-level differences can influence household adoption decisions and should be considered in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the uptake of new technologies.