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Explaining the demand for sovereignty


  • Sambanis, Nicholas
  • Milanovic, Branko


Why do groups want to secede and where are we most likely to see demands for self-determination? This paper proposes an economic explanation whereby a tradeoff between income and sovereignty implies that, other things being equal, richer regions are more likely to want more autonomy and conflict arises due to a disparity between desired and actual levels of sovereignty. The authors provide simple empirical tests using new data collected at the level of second-tier administrative subdivisions in 48 decentralized countries. They find a positive association between, on the one hand, relative regional income, regional population share, natural resource endowment, and regional inter-personal inequality and, on the other hand, observed sovereignty levels. Ethnically distinct regions have lower sovereignty, but this association is only conditional on controlling for the interactive effects between ethnic distinctiveness and regional inter-personal inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Sambanis, Nicholas & Milanovic, Branko, 2011. "Explaining the demand for sovereignty," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5888, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5888

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Enrico Spolaore, 2008. "Civil conflict and secessions," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 45-63, January.
    2. Ghazala Mansuri & Vijayendra Rao, 2013. "Localizing Development : Does Participation Work?," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 11859, March.
    3. Treisman, Daniel, 1996. "The Politics of Intergovernmental Transfers in Post-Soviet Russia," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(03), pages 299-335, July.
    4. Przeworski,Adam & Alvarez,Michael E. & Cheibub,Jose Antonio & Limongi,Fernando, 2000. "Democracy and Development," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521793797, May.
    5. Panizza, Ugo, 1999. "On the determinants of fiscal centralization: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 97-139, October.
    6. Treisman, Daniel, 1998. "Fiscal Redistribution in a Fragile Federation: Moscow and the Regions in 1994," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(01), pages 185-222, January.
    7. Przeworski,Adam & Alvarez,Michael E. & Cheibub,Jose Antonio & Limongi,Fernando, 2000. "Democracy and Development," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521790321, May.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Demand for sovereignty
      by Inaki Villanueva in Applied economist on 2012-10-01 23:50:00


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