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Is Secessionism Mostly About Income or Identity? A Global Analysis of 3,003 Subnational Regions

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  • Desmet, Klaus
  • Ortuño Ortín, Ignacio
  • Özak, Ömer

Abstract

This paper analyzes whether the propensity to secede by subnational regions responds mostly to differences in income per capita or to distinct identities. We explore this question in a quantitative political economy model where people's willingness to finance a public good depends on their income and identity. Using high-resolution economic and linguistic data for the entire globe, we predict the propensity to secede of 3,003 subnational regions in 173 countries. We validate the model-based predictions with data on secessionist movements, state fragility, regional autonomy, and conflict, as well as with an application to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Counterfactual analysis strongly suggests that identity trumps income in determining a region's propensity to secede. Removing identity differences reduces the average support for secession from 7.5% to 0.6% of the population.

Suggested Citation

  • Desmet, Klaus & Ortuño Ortín, Ignacio & Özak, Ömer, 2022. "Is Secessionism Mostly About Income or Identity? A Global Analysis of 3,003 Subnational Regions," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1171, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:1171
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lacroix, Jean & Mitchener, Kris James & Oosterlinck, Kim, 2023. "Domino Secessions: Evidence from the U.S," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 676, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Secessionism; Separatism; Federalism; Conflict; Identity; Political Economy; International Relations;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism
    • P00 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - General - - - General
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F52 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - National Security; Economic Nationalism
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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