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Social identity, inequality and conflict


  • James A. Robinson


I extend the standard materialistic rational choice model of conflict to consider groups. In particular, I consider how the aggregate amount of conflict in society depends on which groups form and oppose each other. The study is motivated by empirical findings about the relationship between inequality, conflict and economic development. I focus on a salient comparison: ethnic groups vs. social classes. I show that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, class conflict is not necessarily worse than ethnic conflict. In fact, ethnic conflict is general worse when the distribution of income is more equal. I also investigate the impact of the fact that while ethnicity is immutable, since there is social mobility, class is not. I show that the direct impact of mobility of conflict is as conventionally believed, but that there are important indirect effects which make the net effect ambiguous. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Suggested Citation

  • James A. Robinson, 2001. "Social identity, inequality and conflict," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 85-99, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:ecogov:v:2:y:2001:i:1:p:85-99

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    11. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-De-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 1999. "Corporate Ownership Around the World," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(2), pages 471-517, April.
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    13. Demsetz, Harold & Lehn, Kenneth, 1985. "The Structure of Corporate Ownership: Causes and Consequences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1155-1177, December.
    14. Muller, Holger M & Warneryd, Karl, 2001. "Inside versus Outside Ownership: A Political Theory of the Firm," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(3), pages 527-541, Autumn.
    15. Jack Hirshleifer, 1989. "Conflict and rent-seeking success functions: Ratio vs. difference models of relative success," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 63(2), pages 101-112, November.
    16. repec:hrv:faseco:30747162 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Mike Burkart & Denis Gromb & Fausto Panunzi, 1997. "Large Shareholders, Monitoring, and the Value of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 693-728.
    18. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Efficiency of Equity in Organizational Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 154-159, May.
    19. Michelle R. Garfinkel & Stergios Skaperdas, 2000. "Contract or War? On the Consequences of a Broader View of Self-Interest in Economics," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 44(1), pages 5-16, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rohner, Dominic, 2011. "Reputation, group structure and social tensions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 188-199, November.
    2. Isaac Kalonda Kanyama, 2017. "Patterns and trends in horizontal inequality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," WIDER Working Paper Series 151, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    3. repec:spr:sochwe:v:50:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s00355-017-1089-x is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Garfinkel, Michelle R., 2004. "Global threats and the domestic struggle for power," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 495-508, June.
    5. Mogues, Tewodaj, 2008. "A two-dimensional measure of polarization:," IFPRI discussion papers 837, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Jennings, Colin & Sanchez-Pages, Santiago, 2017. "Social capital, conflict and welfare," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 157-167.
    7. Mauricio A. Rodríguez & Nancy A. Daza, 2012. "Determinants of Civil Conflict in Colombia: How Robust are they?," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(2), pages 109-131, April.
    8. Chowdhury, Subhasish M. & Jeon, Joo Young & Ramalingam, Abhijit, 2016. "Identity and group conflict," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 107-121.

    More about this item


    Key words:groups; social mobility; cleavages; conflict; JEL classification: D74; J62; O1;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development


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