Ethnic Favoritism: An Axiom of Politics?
We investigate the prevalence and determinants of ethnic favoritism, i.e., preferential public policies targeted at the political leader’s ethnic group. We construct a panel dataset of 2,022 ethnographic regions from 139 countries with annual observations from 1992 to 2012, and use nighttime light intensity as output measure to capture the distributive effects of a wide range of policies. We find robust evidence for ethnic favoritism: the political leaders’ ethnographic regions enjoy 10% higher nighttime light intensity. We further find that ethnic favoritism is a global rather than Sub-Saharan African phenomenon, which is present in poor as well as rich countries; that political institutions have a weak effect on ethnic favoritism; that ethnic favoritism is most prevalent in ethnically fractionalized and segregated countries with long established polities; and that ethnic favoritism does not contribute to sustainable development.
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