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The wrong suspect. An enquiry into the endogeneity of natural resource measures to civil war


  • Rigterink, Anouk S.


This paper argues that natural resources in the past have been falsely identified as a cause of civil conflict onset. The idea that natural resources spur conflict has reached a certain degree of acceptance among scholars and policy makers with a number of quantitative studies concluding that natural resource abundant countries are more likely to experience a civil war than countries without such resources. However insights from the ‘resource curse’ literature suggest that measures of natural resources abundance conventionally used in these studies, can not be considered exogenous. Reversed causality and/or omitted political and economic variables may thus undermine the ability of these studies to prove a causal relationship between natural resource abundance and civil war. In this paper, I propose two more exogenous measures of natural resource abundance such as natural capital and subsoil capital. I identify those studies that find the strongest effect of natural resources on civil war (Collier and Hoeffler 2004, Collier Hoeffler and Rohner 2009) and replicate the exact same specifications, only changing the measure of natural resource abundance. Using the proposed more exogenous measures, I find no evidence that natural resource abundance leads to higher civil war risk. On the contrary, this paper provides some inconclusive evidence for the proposition that natural resource abundance may diminish civil war risk. Furthermore, I interact natural resource abundance with various measures of institutional quality, suggesting that the effect natural resources have on civil war might depend on quality of the institutions in the country at hand.

Suggested Citation

  • Rigterink, Anouk S., 2010. "The wrong suspect. An enquiry into the endogeneity of natural resource measures to civil war," MPRA Paper 45263, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:45263

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Macartan Humphreys, 2005. "Natural Resources, Conflict, and Conflict Resolution," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 49(4), pages 508-537, August.
    2. Ibrahim Elbadawi & Nicholas Sambanis, 2002. "How Much War Will we see?," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 46(3), pages 307-334, June.
    3. Halvor Mehlum & Karl Moene & Ragnar Torvik, 2006. "Institutions and the Resource Curse," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(508), pages 1-20, January.
    4. Besley, Timothy J. & Persson, Torsten, 2008. "The Incidence of Civil War: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 7101, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew M. Warner, 1995. "Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 5398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Brunnschweiler, Christa N., 2008. "Cursing the Blessings? Natural Resource Abundance, Institutions, and Economic Growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 399-419, March.
    7. Bethany Lacina, 2006. "Explaining the Severity of Civil Wars," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 50(2), pages 276-289, April.
    8. Oeindrila Dube & Juan F. Vargas, 2013. "Commodity Price Shocks and Civil Conflict: Evidence from Colombia," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 1384-1421.
    9. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2005. "Resource Rents, Governance, and Conflict," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 49(4), pages 625-633, August.
    10. Indra De Soysa & Eric Neumayer, 2007. "Resource Wealth and the Risk of Civil War Onset: Results from a New Dataset of Natural Resource Rents, 1970—1999," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 24(3), pages 201-218, July.
    11. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    12. Collier, Paul & Hoeffler, Anke, 1998. "On Economic Causes of Civil War," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 563-573, October.
    13. Christa N. Brunnschweiler & Erwin H. Bulte, 2009. "Natural resources and violent conflict: resource abundance, dependence, and the onset of civil wars," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(4), pages 651-674, October.
    14. Jeremy M. Weinstein, 2005. "Resources and the Information Problem in Rebel Recruitment," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 49(4), pages 598-624, August.
    15. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2004. "Greed and grievance in civil war," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(4), pages 563-595, October.
    16. Michael L. Ross, 2004. "What Do We Know about Natural Resources and Civil War?," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 41(3), pages 337-356, May.
    17. Ross, Michael L., 2004. "How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen Cases," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(01), pages 35-67, February.
    18. Päivi Lujala & Nils Petter Gleditsch & Elisabeth Gilmore, 2005. "A Diamond Curse?," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 49(4), pages 538-562, August.
    19. HÃ¥vard Hegre & Nicholas Sambanis, 2006. "Sensitivity Analysis of Empirical Results on Civil War Onset," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 50(4), pages 508-535, August.
    20. Indra De Soysa, 2002. "Paradise is a Bazaar? Greed, Creed, and Governance in Civil War, 1989-99," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 39(4), pages 395-416, July.
    21. Sachs, Jeffrey D. & Warner, Andrew M., 2001. "The curse of natural resources," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 827-838, May.
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    More about this item


    Natural resources; conflict; civil war; resource curse.;

    JEL classification:

    • 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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