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Poor institutions, rich mines: resource curse and the origins of the Sicilian mafia

Author

Listed:
  • Paolo Buonanno

    (University of Bergamo)

  • Ruben Durante

    (Sciences Po)

  • Giovanni Prarolo

    (University of Bologna)

  • Paolo Vanin

    (University of Bologna)

Abstract

This study explains the emergence of the Sicilian mafia in the XIX century as the product of the interaction between natural resource abundance and weak institutions. We advance the hypothesis that the mafia emerged after the collapse of the Bourbon Kingdom in a context characterized by a severe lack of state property-right enforcement in response to the rising demand for the protection of sulfur - Sicily's most valuable export commodity - whose demand in the international markets was soaring at the time. We test this hypothesis combining data on the early presence of the mafia and on the distribution of sulfur reserves across Sicilian municipalities and find evidence of a positive and significant effect of sulphur availability on mafia's diffusion. These results remain unchanged when including department fixed-effects and various geographical and historical controls, when controlling for spatial correlation, and when comparing pairs of neighboring municipalities with and without sulfur.

Suggested Citation

  • Paolo Buonanno & Ruben Durante & Giovanni Prarolo & Paolo Vanin, 2012. "Poor institutions, rich mines: resource curse and the origins of the Sicilian mafia," Working Papers 2012/29, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  • Handle: RePEc:ieb:wpaper:doc2012-29
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Natural resource curse; weak institutions; mafia-type organizations;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N54 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: 1913-
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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