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Civil War, Public Goods and the Social Wealth of Nations

  • Kanbur, Ravi
  • Pottebaum, David

This Paper establishes and explores the implications of a somewhat surprising empirical finding. Although civil war adversely affects the performance of social indicators in general, poorer countries lose less, in absolute and relative terms, than richer countries. It is argued that the explanation may lie in the extent to which richer countries have better social (and economic) indicators because of more public goods, and adaptation of economic and social mechanisms to the greater abundance of public goods such as physical infrastructure. Civil war destroys public goods, and therefore damages disproportionately the countries most dependent on them. A further implication of this framework is that the post-conflict rebound in social indicators should be relatively stronger in poorer countries. The data bear out this prediction. Our results should not of course be read as implying that poorer countries need less support to avoid civil war and to cope with its aftermath. Although their losses are less, they start from a lower base; so even small declines severely impact human well being. Properly understood, our results highlight the central role that public goods play in underpinning the social (and economic) wealth of nations

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3124.

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Date of creation: Jan 2002
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3124
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  1. Frances Stewart, 1993. "War and underdevelopment: Can economic analysis help reduce the costs?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 5(4), pages 357-380, 07.
  2. Kakwani, N., 1993. "Performance in living standards : An international comparison," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 307-336, August.
  3. Easterly, W & Levine, R, 1996. "Africa's Growth Tragedy : Policies and Ethnic Divisions," Papers 536, Harvard - Institute for International Development.
  4. Psacharopoulos, George & Arriagada, Ana Maria, 1989. "The Determinants of Early Age Human Capital Formation: Evidence from Brazil," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(4), pages 683-708, July.
  5. Collier, Paul & Hoeffler, Anke, 1998. "On Economic Causes of Civil War," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 563-73, October.
  6. Easterly, William & Rebelo, Sérgio, 1994. "Fiscal Policy and Economic Growth: An Empirical Investigation," CEPR Discussion Papers 885, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Jan Willem Gunning & Paul Collier, 1999. "Explaining African Economic Performance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 64-111, March.
  8. Aschauer, David Alan, 1989. "Is public expenditure productive?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-200, March.
  9. Peter Kennedy, 2003. "A Guide to Econometrics, 5th Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 5, volume 1, number 026261183x, June.
  10. Antonio Estache, 1994. "World Development Report: Infrastructure for Development," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/44144, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  11. Hertz, Erica & Hebert, James R. & Landon, Joan, 1994. "Social and environmental factors and life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternal mortality rates: Results of a cross-national comparison," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 105-114, July.
  12. Frances Stewart & Frank Humphreys & Nick Lea, 1997. "Civil conflict in developing countries over the last quarter of a century: An empirical overview of economic and social consequences," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(1), pages 11-41.
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