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The Political Economy of Ethnolinguistic Cleavages

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  • Klaus Desmet
  • Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín
  • Romain Wacziarg

Abstract

This paper proposes a new method to measure ethnolinguistic diversity and offers new results linking such diversity with a range of political economy outcomes -- civil conflict, redistribution, economic growth and the provision of public goods. We use linguistic trees, describing the genealogical relationship between the entire set of 6,912 world languages, to compute measures of fractionalization and polarization at different levels of linguistic aggregation. By doing so, we let the data inform us on which linguistic cleavages are most relevant, rather than making ad hoc choices of linguistic classifications. We find drastically different effects of linguistic diversity at different levels of aggregation: deep cleavages, originating thousands of years ago, lead to measures of diversity that are better predictors of civil conflict and redistribution than those that account for more recent and superficial divisions. The opposite pattern holds when it comes to the impact of linguistic diversity on growth and public goods provision, where finer distinctions between languages matter.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15360.

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Date of creation: Sep 2009
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Publication status: published as The Political Economy of Linguistic Cleavages (with Klaus Desmet and Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín) - Journal of Development Economics, vol. 97, no. 2, March 2012, pp. 322-338. - Paper
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15360

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Max Nathan, 2011. "The Economics of Super-Diversity: Findings from British Cities, 2001-2006," SERC Discussion Papers 0068, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
  2. Jacques Melitz & Farid Toubal, 2012. "Native language, spoken language, translation and trade," Working Papers 2012-17, CEPII research center.
  3. Gardeazabal, Javier, 2011. "Linguistic Polarization and Conflict in the Basque Country," DFAEII Working Papers 2011-02, University of the Basque Country - Department of Foundations of Economic Analysis II.
  4. Feldmann, Horst, 2012. "Ethnic fractionalization and unemployment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 117(1), pages 192-195.
  5. Alexander Fink, 2011. "Under what conditions may social contracts arise? Evidence from the Hanseatic League," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 173-190, June.
  6. Cervellati, Matteo & Sunde, Uwe & Valmori, Simona, 2011. "Disease Environment and Civil Conflicts," IZA Discussion Papers 5614, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Joan Esteban & Laura Mayoral & Debraj Ray, 2012. "Ethnicity and Conflict: An Empirical Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1310-42, June.
  8. Primož Pevcin, 2012. "Analysis of Cross-Country Differences in the Non-Profit Sector Size," Prague Economic Papers, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2012(2), pages 186-204.
  9. Satya Chakravarty & Bhargav Maharaj, 2012. "Ethnic polarization orderings and indices," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 99-123, May.
  10. Alberto Bisin & Thierry Verdier, 2010. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and Socialization," NBER Working Papers 16512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Ager, Philipp & Brückner, Markus, 2013. "Cultural diversity and economic growth: Evidence from the US during the age of mass migration," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 76-97.
  12. Hanson, Gordon & Xiang, Chong, 2011. "Trade barriers and trade flows with product heterogeneity: An application to US motion picture exports," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 14-26, January.
  13. Akramov, Kamiljon T. & Yu, Bingxin & Fan, Shenggen, 2010. "Mountains, global food prices, and food security in the developing world," IFPRI discussion papers 989, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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