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Ethnic divisions, political institutions and the duration of declines

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  • Bluhm, Richard
  • Thomsson, Kaj

Abstract

This paper analyzes the duration of large economic declines and provides a theory of delayed recovery. First, we develop a formal political economy model that illustrates a simple mechanism of how weak constraints on the political executive can lead to longer declines in ethnically heterogeneous countries. The model shows how uncertain post-recovery incomes and a `winner-take-all' threshold effect create a commitment problem rendering a cooperative equilibrium inaccessible. Holding out can benefit groups by reducing the threshold effects in subsequent periods, thus limiting the remaining uncertainty. Placing strong constraints on the executive solves this commitment problem by reducing the uncertainty from the threshold effects, which brings about cooperation earlier on. Second, we then test several empirical predictions from the model using standard data on linguistic heterogeneity and more detailed data on ethnic power configurations. We find that the partial correlations are consistent with the proposed theory. The effect of executive constraints on the length of declines is very large in heterogeneous countries, but practically disappears in ethnically homogeneous societies. The adverse effect of heterogeneity is driven by the number of groups; increasing political concentration works in the opposite direction.

Suggested Citation

  • Bluhm, Richard & Thomsson, Kaj, 2015. "Ethnic divisions, political institutions and the duration of declines," VfS Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112863, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc15:112863
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    2. Richard Bluhm & Denis de Crombrugghe & Adam Szirmai, 0. "Do Weak Institutions Prolong Crises? On the Identification, Characteristics, and Duration of Declines during Economic Slumps," The World Bank Economic Review, World Bank, vol. 34(3), pages 810-832.

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    JEL classification:

    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination

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