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The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions

Author

Listed:
  • Samuel Bazzi

    (Boston University, CEPR, BREAD)

  • Matthew Gudgeon

    (Boston University)

Abstract

Policymakers in diverse countries face the persistent challenge of managing ethnic divisions. We argue that redrawing subnational political boundaries can fundamentally reshape these divisions. We use a natural policy experiment in Indonesia to show that changes in the political relevance of ethnic divisions have significant effects on conflict in the short- to medium-run. While redistricting along group lines can increase social stability, these gains are undone and even reversed in newly polarized units. Electoral democracy further amplifies these effects given the large returns to initial control of newly created local governments in settings with ethnic favoritism. Overall, our findings show that the ethnic divisions underlying widely-used diversity measures are neither fixed nor exogenous and instead depend on the political boundaries within which groups are organized. These results illustrate the promise and pitfalls of redistricting policy in diverse countries where it is not feasible for each group to have its own administrative unit.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Bazzi & Matthew Gudgeon, 2017. "The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2018-005, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bos:wpaper:wp2018-005
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    Cited by:

    1. Alberto Alesina & Caterina Gennaioli & Stefania Lovo, 2019. "Public Goods and Ethnic Diversity: Evidence from Deforestation in Indonesia," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 86(341), pages 32-66, January.
    2. Joan Esteban & Sabine Flamand & Massimo Morelli & Dominic Rohner, 2017. "The Survival and Demise of the State: A Dynamic Theory of Secession," Working Papers 609, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    3. Paul Pelzl & Steven (S.) Poelhekke, 2018. "Good mine, bad mine: Natural resource heterogeneity and Dutch disease in Indonesia," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 18-073/VIII, Tinbergen Institute.
    4. Baskaran, Thushyanthan & Blesse, Sebastian, 2019. "Subnational border reforms and economic development in Africa," ZEW Discussion Papers 18-027, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    5. Joan Esteban & Sabine Flamand & Massimo Morelli & Dominic Rohner, 2018. "A Dynamic Theory of Secession," CESifo Working Paper Series 7257, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Conflict; Decentralization; Ethnic Divisions; Polarization; Political Boundaries;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Q34 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Natural Resources and Domestic and International Conflicts

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