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Do Commodity Price Shocks Cause Armed Conflicts? A Meta-Analysis of Natural Experiments

Author

Listed:
  • Graeme Graeme Blair

    (UCLA)

  • Darin Christensen

    (UCLA)

  • Aaron Rudkin

    (UCLA)

Abstract

Scholars of the resource curse argue that reliance on primary commodities destabilizes governments: price fluctuations generate windfalls or periods of austerity that provoke or intensify civil conflict. Over 350 quantitative studies test this claim, but prominent results point in different directions, making it difficult to discern which results reliably hold across contexts. We conduct a meta-analysis of 46 natural experiments that use difference-in-difference designs to estimate the causal effect of commodity price changes on armed civil conflict. We show that commodity price changes, on average, do not change the likelihood of conflict. However, there are cross-cutting effects by commodity type. In line with theory, we find price increases for labor-intensive agricultural commodities reduce conflict, while increases in the price of oil, a capital-intensive commodity, provoke conflict. We also find that price increases for lootable artisanal minerals provoke conflict. Our meta-analysis consolidates existing evidence, but also highlights opportunities for future research.

Suggested Citation

  • Graeme Graeme Blair & Darin Christensen & Aaron Rudkin, 2020. "Do Commodity Price Shocks Cause Armed Conflicts? A Meta-Analysis of Natural Experiments," Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC) Working Papers 21, Empirical Studies of Conflict Project.
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:esocpu:21
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    File URL: https://esoc.princeton.edu/WP21
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    resource curse; armed conflict; commodity prices; meta-analysis;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • Q20 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
    • Q30 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - General

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