Minority Languages and Political Participation in Ghana

Multidisciplinary Type I Proposal (exploratory research)

Among the many determinants of political participation, demographic characteristics are often considered a key driver (Olken and Pande, 2019). In ethnically diverse settings, ethnicity is often deeply interrelated with language, and usually ethnic minorities are also language minorities, confounding each other (Alesina et al., 2003; Davies and Elder, 2004). While previous research has focused on the study of ethnicity as a determinant of political participation (Easterly and Levine, 1997; Miguel and Gugerty, 2005), language barriers have been comparatively overlooked, despite the fact that minority language speakers may face different obstacles to participation. Ghana is a highly linguistically fractionalized country, with more than 80 spoken languages. Out of these, only English and six local languages are used in electoral education (EOM, 2020). Thus, the political participation of many citizens may be constrained due to a lack of integration of minority languages in the democratic process. Although there have been efforts by Ghana’s National Commission for Civic Education to provide voter education to minority language speakers, these have reportedly been hampered by scarce resources (EOM, 2020).

In this project, we combine methods from economics and linguistics to investigate the barriers to electoral participation for ethnic minorities in Ghana, and potential solutions to address them. First, we intend to explore the extent to which there is a disrupted flow of information due to linguistic frictions in political campaigning, disentangling this aspect from other possible barriers for minorities, such as lack of political trust (Nwankwo and Okafor, 2017), voter intimidation (Adigun, 2020), or lower incomes (Anaman and Bukari, 2021). Second, based on these descriptive findings, we will develop randomizable interventions to overcome specific barriers for informed electoral participation of linguistic minorities.

RFP Cycle:
Multidisciplinary Fall 2023 (RFP 22)