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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.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5888.

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Date of creation: 01 Nov 2011
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5888
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  1. Panizza, Ugo, 1999. "On the determinants of fiscal centralization: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 97-139, October.
  2. Ghazala Mansuri & Vijayendra Rao, 2013. "Localizing Development : Does Participation Work?," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 11859.
  3. Enrico Spolaore, 2007. "Civil Conflict and Secessions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0705, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
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