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How different are the correlates of onset and continuation of civil wars?


  • Michael Bleaney

    (School of Economics, University of Nottingham,

  • Arcangelo Dimico

    (School of Economics, University of Nottingham)


It is very common to analyse the factors associated with the onset and continuation of civil wars entirely separately, as if there were likely to be no similarity between them. This is an overstatement of the theoretical position, which has established only that they may be different (i.e. less than perfectly correlated). The hypothesis that the explanatory variables are the same is not theoretically excludable and is empirically testable, both for individual variables and for combinations of them. Starting from this approach yields a rather different picture of the factors associated with the continuation of civil wars, because the relatively small sample size means that confidence intervals on individual coefficients are wide in this case. It is shown here that country size, mountainous terrain and (in most datasets) ethnic diversity seem significant for the continuation of civil wars, starting from the null hypothesis that variables affect onset and continuation probabilities identically, rather than entirely independently. One variable that affects onset and continuation significantly differently is anocracy, which we find to matter only for onset. Civil war is more likely if it occurred two years previously, as well as one year previously, which indicates that wars are more likely to restart after only one year of peace, and also more likely to stop in their first year. The combined model strengthens the result that ethnic diversity matters (it is consistently significant across datasets, whereas it is not when onset is analysed separately), although in the UCD/PRIO dataset it is significant only for onset. By contrast, if continuation is analysed independently, virtually nothing is significant except a pre-1991 dummy and a dummy for civil war two years previously.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Bleaney & Arcangelo Dimico, 2011. "How different are the correlates of onset and continuation of civil wars?," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 48(2), pages 145-155, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:48:y:2011:i:2:p:145-155

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    Cited by:

    1. Carmignani, Fabrizio & Kler, Parvinder, 2016. "Surrounded by wars: Quantifying the role of spatial conflict spillovers," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 7-16.
    2. Graziella Bertocchi, 2011. "Growth, Colonization, and Institutional Development. In and Out of Africa," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 064, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    3. Samer Matta & Simon Appleton & Michael Bleaney, 2015. "The Impact of the Arab Spring on the Tunisian Economy," Discussion Papers 2015-09, University of Nottingham, CREDIT.
    4. Bluhm, Richard & Crombrugghe, Denis de & Szirmai, Adam, 2012. "Explaining the dynamics of stagnation: An empirical examination of the North, Wallis and Weingast approach," MERIT Working Papers 040, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    5. Brück, Tilman & Mahe, Clotilde & Naudé, Wim, 2018. "Return Migration and Self-Employment: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan," IZA Discussion Papers 11332, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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    civil war; democracy; ethnic diversity;


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