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Ethnic polarization, potential conflict and civil wars

This paper analyzes the relationship between ethnic fractionalization, polarization, and conflict. In recent years many authors have found empirical evidence that ethnic fractionalization has a negative effect on growth. One mechanism that can explain this nexus is the effect of ethnic heterogeneity on rent-seeking activities and the increase in potential conflict, which is negative for investment. However the empirical evidence supporting the effect of ethnic fractionalization on the incidence of civil conflicts is very weak. Although ethnic fractionalization may be important for growth, we argue that the channel is not through an increase in potential ethnic conflict. We discuss the appropriateness of indices of polarization to capture conflictive dimensions. We develop a new measure of ethnic heterogeneity that satisfies the basic properties associated with the concept of polarization. The empirical section shows that this index of ethnic polarization is a significant variable in the explanation of the incidence of civil wars. This result is robust to the presence of other indicators of ethnic heterogeneity, other sources of data for the construction of the index, and other data structures.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 770.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
Date of revision: Mar 2005
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:770
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  1. Joan-Maria Esteban & Debraj Ray, 1991. "On the Measurement of Polarization," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 18, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
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  4. Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 1997. "Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1203-50, November.
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  6. Wacziarg, Romain & Alesina, Alberto & Devleeschauwer, Arnaud & Easterly, William & Kurlat, Sergio, 2002. "Fractionalization," Research Papers 1744, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  7. Edward Miguel & Shanker Satyanath & Ernest Sergenti, 2004. "Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict: An Instrumental Variables Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 725-753, August.
  8. Keefer, Philip & Knack, Stephen, 2000. "Polarization, politics, and property rights : links between inequality and growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2418, The World Bank.
  9. Fearon, James D, 2003. " Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 195-222, June.
  10. Duclos, Jean-Yves & Esteban, Joan & Ray, Debraj, 2003. "Polarization: Concepts, Measurement, Estimation," Cahiers de recherche 0301, CIRPEE.
  11. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2004. "Greed and grievance in civil war," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(4), pages 563-595, October.
  12. Mauro, Paolo, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712, August.
  13. Paul Collier, 2001. "Implications of ethnic diversity," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 127-166, 04.
  14. Skaperdas, Stergios, 1992. "Cooperation, Conflict, and Power in the Absence of Property Rights," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 720-39, September.
  15. Islam, Nazrul, 1995. "Growth Empirics: A Panel Data Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(4), pages 1127-70, November.
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