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How persistent is armed conflict?

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  • James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin
  • David D. Laitin

Abstract

We assess the degree of persistence in armed conflict in particular places over the last two centuries, asking in addition if conflict-ridden places have durable features – social, demographic or geographical – that explain persistence, or whether armed conflict at one time has a causal effect on propensity for armed conflict at later times. For all types of war in the Correlates of War data, we code the territories on which the armed conflict occurred. The data reveal significant levels of persistence in territories that experienced extra-state (imperial and colonial) and non-state wars in an earlier era. Exogenous features such as geography and pre-1800 demography are important in explaining where conflicts persist. However there remains significant persistence controlling for geographic and demographic features. In particular, extra-state wars before 1945 are strongly related to civil war after 1945. This persistence does not appear to arise from the long-run enmity of particular groups that fight repeatedly over centuries. We conjecture that imperial and colonial wars may have been more likely in territories where there were more and/or more developed pre-colonial state structures, and that either the persistence of these structures or changes in them brought about by the violent encounters raised civil war risks after 1945.

Suggested Citation

  • James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin & David D. Laitin, 2012. "How persistent is armed conflict?," Working Papers 311, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  • Handle: RePEc:rza:wpaper:311 Note: Papers presented at the Civil War Session of the WEHC 2012
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    File URL: http://www.econrsa.org/node/334
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2016. "The Long-Run Effects of the Scramble for Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(7), pages 1802-1848, July.
    2. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2012. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1508-1539, June.
    3. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2012. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, pages 20-36.
    4. Nathan Nunn, 2009. "The Importance of History for Economic Development," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 65-92, May.
    5. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    6. Nathan Nunn, 2008. "The Long-term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 139-176.
    7. Karl R. Derouen JR & Jacob Bercovitch, 2008. "Enduring Internal Rivalries: A New Framework for the Study of Civil War," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 45(1), pages 55-74, January.
    8. Nathan Nunn & Leonard Wantchekon, 2011. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3221-3252, December.
    9. James D. Fearon, 2004. "Why Do Some Civil Wars Last So Much Longer than Others?," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 41(3), pages 275-301, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Besley, Timothy & Reynal-Querol, Marta, 2014. "The Legacy of Historical Conflict: Evidence from Africa," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 108(02), pages 319-336, May.
    2. Achyuta Adhvaryu & James Fenske, 2013. "War, resilience and political engagement in Africa," CSAE Working Paper Series 2013-08, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.

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