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Can states buy peace? Social welfare spending and civil conflicts


  • Zeynep Taydas

    (Department of Political Science, Clemson University)

  • Dursun Peksen

    (Department of Political Science, University of Memphis)


This study examines whether the state’s ability to provide social welfare services has any major effect on the probability of civil conflict onset. We argue that welfare spending contributes to sustaining peace because the provision of social services reduces grievances by offsetting the effects of poverty and inequality in society. Welfare spending serves as an indication of the commitment of the government to social services and reflects its priorities and dedication to citizens. By enacting welfare policies that improve the living standards of citizens, governments can co-opt the political opposition and decrease the incentives for organizing a rebellion. Utilizing time-series, cross-national data for the 1975–2005 period, the results indicate that as the level of the government investment in welfare policies (i.e. education, health, and social security) increases, the likelihood of civil conflict onset declines significantly, controlling for several other covariates of internal conflict. Additional data analysis shows that general public spending and military expenditures are unlikely to increase or decrease the probability of civil unrest. Overall, these findings suggest that certain types of public spending, such as welfare spending, might have a strong pacifying effect on civil conflict, and therefore the state’s welfare efforts are vital for the maintenance of peace.

Suggested Citation

  • Zeynep Taydas & Dursun Peksen, 2012. "Can states buy peace? Social welfare spending and civil conflicts," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(2), pages 273-287, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:2:p:273-287

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Frances Ruane & Xiaoheng Zhang, 2007. "Location Choices of the Pharmaceutical Industry in Europe after 1992," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp220, IIIS.
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    Cited by:

    1. Therese F. Azeng & Thierry U. Yogo, 2015. "Youth Unemployment, Education and Political Instability: Evidence from Selected Developing Countries 1991-2009," HiCN Working Papers 200, Households in Conflict Network.
    2. 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.
    3. Therese F. Azeng & Thierry Yogo Urbain, 2013. "Working Paper 171 - Youth Unemployment and Political Instability in Selected Developing Countries," Working Paper Series 467, African Development Bank.
    4. Corinne Deléchat & Ejona Fuli & Dafina Glaser & Gustavo Ramirez & Rui Xu, 2015. "Exiting From Fragility in sub-Saharan Africa; The Role of Fiscal Policies and Fiscal Institutions," IMF Working Papers 15/268, International Monetary Fund.
    5. Patricia Justino & Bruno Martorano, 2016. "Inequality, Distributive Beliefs and Protests: A Recent Story from Latin America," HiCN Working Papers 218, Households in Conflict Network.
    6. Han, Enze & Paik, Christopher, 2017. "Ethnic Integration and Development in China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 31-42.


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