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The political economy of linguistic cleavages

Author

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  • Desmet, Klaus
  • Ortuño-Ortín, Ignacio
  • Wacziarg, Romain

Abstract

This paper uses a linguistic tree, describing the genealogical relationship between all 6912 world languages, to compute measures of diversity at different levels of linguistic aggregation. By doing so, we let the data inform us on which linguistic cleavages are most relevant for a range of political economy outcomes, rather than making ad hoc choices. We find that deep cleavages, originating thousands of years ago, lead to better predictors of civil conflict and redistribution. The opposite pattern emerges when it comes to the impact of linguistic diversity on growth and public goods provision, where finer distinctions between languages matter.

Suggested Citation

  • Desmet, Klaus & Ortuño-Ortín, Ignacio & Wacziarg, Romain, 2012. "The political economy of linguistic cleavages," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 322-338.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:97:y:2012:i:2:p:322-338
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2011.02.003
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Ethnolinguistic cleavages; Diversity; Linguistic trees; Civil conflict; Redistribution; Public goods; Growth;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity
    • O5 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies

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