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Ethnic Diversity, Concentration of Political Power and the Curse of Natural Resources


  • Wadho, Waqar
  • Hussain, Sadia


The empirical evidence suggests that the resource rich countries tend to have poor economic perfor- mance and higher rent seeking. In this paper, we develop a general equilibrium model explaining why natural resources turn out to be a curse in an economy divided into two classes: elite and workers. Our model explains the resource curse in a setup in which governing elite expropriate rents from natural resources which reduces the productive use of these resources. The expected costs and benefits of such rent seeking activities depend on the degree of ethnic polarization which a¤ects the concentration of political power, and on the quality of institutions which constraints rent seeking. The model predicts that in the presence of natural resources and rent seeking, ethnic diversity increases concentration of political power, reduces income per capita and increases income inequality. Moreover, the impact will be higher in economies that depend more on natural resources.

Suggested Citation

  • Wadho, Waqar & Hussain, Sadia, 2020. "Ethnic Diversity, Concentration of Political Power and the Curse of Natural Resources," GLO Discussion Paper Series 611, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:611

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    More about this item


    Rent seeking; Political power; Natural resource curse; Ethnic diversity;

    JEL classification:

    • Q32 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Exhaustible Resources and Economic Development
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products


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