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Resource Wealth and the Risk of Civil War Onset: Results from a New Dataset of Natural Resource Rents, 1970—1999


  • Indra De Soysa

    (Department of Sociology and Political Science Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Trondheim, Norway Center for the Study of Civil War International Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) Oslo, Norway,

  • Eric Neumayer

    (Department of Geography and Environment London School of Economics (LSE) London, England, UK, Center for the Study of Civil War International Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) Oslo, Norway)


The existing literature identifies natural resource wealth as a major determinant of civil war. The dominant causal link is that resources provide finance and motive (the “looting rebels†model). Others see natural resources as causing “political Dutch disease,†which in turn weakens state capacity (the “state capacity†model). In the looting rebels model, resource wealth first increases, but then decreases the risk for civil war as very large wealth enables governments to constrain rebels, whereas in the state capacity model, large resource wealth is unambiguously related to higher risk of war. This research note uses a new dataset on natural resource rents that are disaggregated as mineral and energy rents for addressing the resources-conflict relationship. We find that neither a dummy variable for major oil exporters nor our resource rents variables predict civil war onset with a 1000-battle-death threshold coded by Fearon and Laitin (2003) in the period after 1970 for which rents data are available. However, using a lower threshold of 25 battle deaths, we find that energy wealth, but not mineral wealth, increases the risk for civil war onset. We find no evidence for a nonlinear relationship between either type of resources and civil war onset. The results tentatively support theories built around state capacity models and provide evidence against the looting rebels model of civil war onset.

Suggested Citation

  • Indra De Soysa & Eric Neumayer, 2007. "Resource Wealth and the Risk of Civil War Onset: Results from a New Dataset of Natural Resource Rents, 1970—1999," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 24(3), pages 201-218, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:compsc:v:24:y:2007:i:3:p:201-218
    DOI: 10.1080/07388940701468468

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    Cited by:

    1. Rigterink, Anouk S., 2010. "The wrong suspect. An enquiry into the endogeneity of natural resource measures to civil war," MPRA Paper 45263, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Axel Dreher & Merle Kreibaum, 2016. "Weapons of choice," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 53(4), pages 539-553, July.
    3. de Soysa, Indra & Gizelis, Theodora-Ismene, 2013. "The natural resource curse and the spread of HIV/AIDS, 1990–2008," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 90-96.
    4. Bodea, Cristina & Higashijima, Masaaki & Singh, Raju Jan, 2016. "Oil and Civil Conflict: Can Public Spending Have a Mitigation Effect?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 1-12.
    5. Korotayev, Andrey & Bilyuga, Stanislav & Belalov, Ilya & Goldstone, Jack, 2018. "Oil prices, socio-political destabilization risks, and future energy technologies," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 304-310.
    6. Vesco, Paola & Dasgupta, Shouro & De Cian, Enrica & Carraro, Carlo, 2020. "Natural resources and conflict: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 172(C).
    7. Vusal Musayev, 2016. "Externalities in Military Spending and Growth: The Role of Natural Resources as a Channel through Conflict," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(3), pages 378-391, June.
    8. Musayev, Vusal, 2014. "Commodity Price Shocks, Conflict and Growth: The Role of Institutional Quality and Political Violence," MPRA Paper 59786, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Anthony Bebbington & Leonith Hinojosa & Denise Humphreys Bebbington & Maria Luisa Burneo & Ximena Warnaars, 2008. "Forum 2008," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 39(6), pages 887-914, November.
    10. Neudorfer, Natascha S., 2018. "Commodities and corruption – How the middle class and democratic institutions lead to less corruption in resource-rich countries," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 175-191.
    11. Ibrahim Ahmed Elbadawi & Raimundo Soto, 2015. "Resource rents, institutions, and violent civil conflicts," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(1), pages 89-113, February.
    12. Nkonya, Ephraim & Markelova, Helen, 2009. "Looking beyond the obvious: Uncovering the features of natural resource conflicts in Uganda," CAPRi working papers 95, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    13. repec:ipg:wpaper:2014-514 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Jamal BOUOIYOUR & Refk SELMI & Muhammad SHAHBAZ, 2014. "The Electricity Consumption in a Rentier State: Do Institutions Matter ?," Working Papers 2013-2014_12, CATT - UPPA - Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, revised Apr 2014.
    15. Richard Beard, 2017. "The Inclusion Of Natural Resource Wealth In The Index Of Economic Well-Being: Results For OECD Countries, 1980-2013," CSLS Research Reports 2017-04, Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
    16. Caruso Raul, 2010. "International Relative Prices and Civil Wars in Africa: A Note," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(1), pages 1-8, June.

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