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Location, Location, Location: An MCMC Approach to Modeling the Spatial Context of War and Peace


  • Ward, Michael D.
  • Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede


This article demonstrates how spatially dependent data with a categorical response variable can be addressed in a statistical model. We introduce the idea of an autologistic model where the response for one observation is dependent on the value of the response among adjacent observations. The autologistic model has likelihood function that is mathematically intractable, since the observations are conditionally dependent upon one another. We review alternative techniques for estimating this model, with special emphasis on recent advances using Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) techniques. We evaluate a highly simplified autologistic model of conflict where the likelihood of war involvement for each nation is conditional on the war involvement of proximate states. We estimate this autologistic model for a single year (1988) via maximum pseudolikelihood and MCMC maximum likelihood methods. Our results indicate that the autologistic model fits the data much better than an unconditional model and that the MCMC estimates generally dominate the pseudolikelihood estimates. The autologistic model generates predicted probabilities greater than 0.5 and has relatively good predictive abilities in an out-of-sample forecast for the subsequent decade (1989 to 1998), correctly identifying not only ongoing conflicts, but also new ones.

Suggested Citation

  • Ward, Michael D. & Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede, 2002. "Location, Location, Location: An MCMC Approach to Modeling the Spatial Context of War and Peace," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(3), pages 244-260, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:polals:v:10:y:2002:i:03:p:244-260_01

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    2. Benjamin Crost & Joseph H. Felter, 2015. "Is Conflict Contagious? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," HiCN Working Papers 197, Households in Conflict Network.
    3. Silve, Arthur & Verdier, Thierry, 2018. "A theory of regional conflict complexes," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 434-447.
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    5. Verpoorten Marijke, 2012. "The Intensity of the Rwandan Genocide: Measures from the Gacaca Records," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 18(1), pages 1-26, April.
    6. Tobias Böhmelt, 2015. "The spatial contagion of international mediation," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 32(1), pages 108-127, February.
    7. Piotr Lis & Michael Spagat & Uih Ran Lee, 2021. "Civilian targeting in African conflicts: A poor actor’s game that spreads through space," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 58(5), pages 900-914, September.
    8. Kyle Beardsley & Nigel Lo, 2013. "Democratic Communities and Third-Party Conflict Management," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 30(1), pages 76-93, February.
    9. Luo, Shali & Miller, J. Isaac, 2014. "On the spatial correlation of international conflict initiation and other binary and dyadic dependent variables," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 107-118.
    10. Stijn van Weezel, 2016. "Short term effects of drought on communal conflict in Nigeria," Working Papers 201618, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    11. Carmignani, Fabrizio & Kler, Parvinder, 2016. "The geographical spillover of armed conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 109-119.
    12. Katrin Dippold & Harald Hruschka, 2013. "Variable selection for market basket analysis," Computational Statistics, Springer, vol. 28(2), pages 519-539, April.
    13. Smirnov, Oleg A., 2010. "Modeling spatial discrete choice," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 292-298, September.
    14. Moon, Sangkil & Azizi, Kathryn, 2013. "Finding Donors by Relationship Fundraising," Journal of Interactive Marketing, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 112-129.
    15. Ward, Hugh & Dorussen, Han, 2015. "Public Information and Performance: The Role of Spatial Dependence in the Worldwide Governance Indicators among African Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 253-263.
    16. Gleditsch Kristian Skrede, 2017. "Ornithology and Varieties of Conflict: A Personal Retrospective on Conflict Forecasting," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 23(4), pages 1-4, December.
    17. Olaf J. de Groot, 2011. "Spillovers of Institutional Change in Africa," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(3), pages 410-426, August.
    18. Marijke verpoorten, 2010. "Detecting Hidden Violence: The Spatial Distribution of Excess Mortality in Rwanda," LICOS Discussion Papers 25410, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    19. Harry Seldadyo & J. Paul Elhorst & Jakob De Haan, 2010. "Geography and governance: Does space matter?," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 89(3), pages 625-640, August.

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