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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