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Inequality, Ethnicity and Civil Conflict

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  • John D. Huber
  • Laura Mayoral

Abstract

Although economic inequality has long been viewed as a cause of civil conflict, existing research has not found robust empirical support for this relationship. This study explores the connections between inequality and civil conflict by focusing on the mediating role of ethnic identity. Using over 200 individual-level surveys from 89 countries, we provide a new data set with country- and group-level measures of inequality within and across ethnic groups. We then show that consistent with Esteban and Ray's (2011) argument about the need for labor and capital to fight civil wars, at both the country and group level, there is a strong positive association between within-group inequality and civil conflict. We do not, however, find support for previous arguments that inequality across ethnic groups should be associated with the incidence or intensity of civil conflict. By breaking down the measures of inequality into group-level components, the analysis helps explain why it is difficult to identify a relationship between general inequality and conflict. More generally, it highlights the limitations in cross-national research associated with drawing substantive conclusions by relying on measures of overall inequality, like the Gini.

Suggested Citation

  • John D. Huber & Laura Mayoral, 2013. "Inequality, Ethnicity and Civil Conflict," Working Papers 744, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:744
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    File URL: http://www.barcelonagse.eu/sites/default/files/working_paper_pdfs/744.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
    2. James Raymond Vreeland, 2008. "The Effect of Political Regime on Civil War," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 52(3), pages 401-425, June.
    3. Anirban Mitra & Debraj Ray, 2014. "Implications of an Economic Theory of Conflict: Hindu-Muslim Violence in India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(4), pages 719-765.
    4. Frederick Solt, 2009. "Standardizing the World Income Inequality Database," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(2), pages 231-242.
    5. Christopher Cramer, 2003. "Does inequality cause conflict?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(4), pages 397-412.
    6. David McKenzie, 2005. "Measuring inequality with asset indicators," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 18(2), pages 229-260, June.
    7. Pyatt, Graham, 1976. "On the Interpretation and Disaggregation of Gini Coefficients," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(342), pages 243-255, June.
    8. David Yanagizawa-Drott, 2012. "Propaganda and Conflict: Theory and Evidence from the Rwandan Genocide," CID Working Papers 257, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    9. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1994. "Economic distance and overlapping of distributions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 147-159, March.
    10. Fearon, James D, 2003. "Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 195-222, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alberto Alesina & Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2016. "Ethnic Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(2), pages 428-488.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    ethnicity; Inequality; civil conflict; gini decomposition; within-group inequality; between-group inequality; fractionalization;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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