Do Ethnic Divisions Matter for Civil Conflict?

Over the second half of the 20th century, civil conflicts (i.e. intra-state conflict) have become increasingly dominant and now account for a greater share of deaths and hardship than any other form of conflict (the main comparator being inter-state conflict).  Empirical research shows that economic variables, particularly poverty and income inequality, are important determinants of civil conflict and there are a variety of channels through which they take effect.  For example, in poor countries young men choose to join the conflict because their expected income from fighting is greater than the income that they would obtain from the labor market, especially if natural resources are under dispute.  On the other hand, low national income leads to weaker repressive capabilities of the state, making it unable to control insurgencies.

Although the earlier empirical evidence often highlights the association between economic conditions and civil conflict, there is limited understanding of how armed groups form and cohere.  A promising starting point is the analysis of ethnic ties and divisions, which are popularly viewed as the leading sources of group cohesion and inter-group civil conflict.  The two broad approaches on ethnic divisions are “primordialist” and “instrumental”.  The primordialist view takes the position that ethnic differences are deeply cultural, biological or psychological, and irreconcilable. The instrumental view treats ethnicity as a strategic basis for coalitions that seek a larger share of economic or political power.  Under either of these approaches, ethnicity can facilitate communication and cooperation within the group but at the same time it increases tensions between groups through asymmetric information and commitment problems.  But why ethnic groups themselves form and cohere in order to engage in violence is still an open question.

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Collier, Paul, and Anke Hoeffler (2004) “Greed and Grievance in Civil War”, Oxford Economic Papers, 56:563-595. [Working paper version]

Esteban, Joan,  Laura Mayora, and Debraj Ray (2012) “Ethnicity and Conflict: Theory and Facts”, Science 336: 858-865.

Esteban, Joan, and Debraj Ray (2011) “Linking Conflict to Inequality and Polarization”, American Economic Review, 101 (4):1345–74. [Working paper version]

Fearon, James, and David D. Laitin  (2003) “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.” American Political Science Review, 97 (March): 75–90. [Working paper version]

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Welcome new members

We would like to welcome the following new members of the InsTED network.

Prof. Matthew T. Cole (Florida International University) His research interests are in international trade and applied microeconomics with a current focus on strategic trade policy.

Prof. James Lake (Southern Methodist University) His research interests are in international trade, networks, game theory, and applied microeconometrics.

Welcome new members

We would like to welcome the following new members of the InsTED network.

Prof. Arhan Ertan (New York University) His main research interests are economic development and international trade.

Prof. Eric Fisher (California Polytechnic State University) His publications include the fields of international economics, macroeconomics, applied economic theory, political science, physics, and experimental economics.

Prof. Fernando Leibovici (University of York) His research interests are international trade, international finance, and macroeconomics.

Prof. Antonio Navas (University of Sheffield) His research interests are international trade, and economic growth and development.

Prof. Dario Pozzoli (Copenhagen Business School) His research interests are in the field of empirical labour economics, in particular labour productivity, education, health and applied microeconometrics.

Prof. Ian Sheldon (Ohio State University) His primary research interests are in analyzing international trade and policy. 

Prof. Halis Murat Yildiz (Ryerson University) His research interests are in international trade, environmental economics, industrial organization, game theory, and public economics.

Thomas Zylkin (Drexel University) His specific interests include both the general equilibrium analysis of trade integration as well as the strategic nature of armed conflict.

Welcome new members

We would like to welcome the following new members of the InsTED network.

Prof. Daniel Berkowitz (University of Pittsburgh) His researchs areas are New Institutional Economics, Development, Law and Finance, and Political Economy.

Prof. Johannes Boehm (Paris Institute of Political Studies) His research areas are Macroeconomics, International Trade, and Industrial Organization.

Claire Brunel (Georgetown University) Her research fields are Environmental Economics, International Trade, Empirical Microeconomics, and Development Economics.

Dr. David DeRemer (Hungarian Academy of Sciences) His specialization is in the fields of International Trade, Industrial Organization, Law and Economics, and Political Economy.

Prof. Robert Driskill (Vanderbilt University) His specializations are in Macroeconomics, International Trade, and Money.

Prof. Markus Eberhardt (University of Nottingham) His research focuses on the empirical aspects of economic development, technological change and growth