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Measuring the Economic Impact of Civil War


  • Kosuke Imai
  • Jeremy M. Weinstein


Civil wars impose substantial costs on the domestic economy. We empirically measure the economic impact of such internal wars. The paper contributes to the existing literature both theoretically and methodologically. First, it explores the economic channels through which civil war affects growth. Previous studies have shown the negative growth effects of civil wars. We go a step further by identifying the channels through which war strips a country of its growth potential. Our argument is that civil war negatively impacts private investment through the process of portfolio substitution. Methodologically, the paper improves on both the data and statistical models used in the existing literature. Our data set includes better measurements of the intensity and scope of civil war as well as new economic and political data for the 1990s. Moreover, using a multiple imputation technique, we minimize the estimation bias due to missing data. Finally, to improve the model, we apply fixed and random effects models to the panel data. The evidence gives strong support to our argument indicating that the driving force behind the negative effects of civil war on economic growth is a decrease in private investment.

Suggested Citation

  • Kosuke Imai & Jeremy M. Weinstein, 2000. "Measuring the Economic Impact of Civil War," CID Working Papers 51, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:cidhav:51

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert J. Barro, 1991. "Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 407-443.
    2. Malcolm Knight & Norman Loayza & Delano Villanueva, 1996. "The Peace Dividend: Military Spending Cuts and Economic Growth," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 43(1), pages 1-37, March.
    3. Edwards, Sebastian & Tabellini, Guido, 1991. "Explaining fiscal policies and inflation in developing countries," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 10(1, Supple), pages 16-48, March.
    4. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew Warner, 1995. "Economic Reform and the Process of Global Integration," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 1-118.
    5. Fischer, Stanley, 1993. "The role of macroeconomic factors in growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 485-512, December.
    6. N. Gregory Mankiw & David Romer & David N. Weil, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-437.
    7. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(3), pages 403-414.
    8. Nazrul Islam, 1995. "Growth Empirics: A Panel Data Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(4), pages 1127-1170.
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    Cited by:

    1. Arias Andrés F. & Laura Ardila, 2003. "Military Expenditure and Economic Activity: The Colombian Case," REVISTA DESARROLLO Y SOCIEDAD, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE, September.
    2. Klaus Friesenbichler, 2013. "Firm Growth in Conflict Countries: Some Evidence from South Asia," Review of Economics & Finance, Better Advances Press, Canada, vol. 3, pages 33-44, May.
    3. Carlos Bozzoli & Tilman Brueck & Tony Muhumuza, 2016. "Activity Choices Of Internally Displaced Persons And Returnees: Quantitative Survey Evidence From Post-War Northern Uganda," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(4), pages 329-347, October.
    4. Strobl, Eric, 2012. "The economic growth impact of natural disasters in developing countries: Evidence from hurricane strikes in the Central American and Caribbean regions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 130-141.
    5. Romain Houssa & Oleg Badunenko & Daniel J. Henderson, 2010. "Explaining African Growth Performance: A Production-Frontier Approach," Working Papers 1013, University of Namur, Department of Economics.
    6. Klapper, Leora & Richmond, Christine & Tran, Trang, 2013. "Civil conflict and firm performance : evidence from Cote d'Ivoire," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6640, The World Bank.
    7. Catherine Norman, 2009. "Rule of Law and the Resource Curse: Abundance Versus Intensity," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 43(2), pages 183-207, June.
    8. Nicholas Staines, 2004. "Economic Performance Over the Conflict Cycle," IMF Working Papers 04/95, International Monetary Fund.

    More about this item


    civil war; instability; economic growth; investment; fiscal balance;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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