Does low economic growth increase the likelihood of civil war?

Antonio Ciccone, Markus Brückner, Mon, 11/19/2007



Between 1945 and 1999, there were around 127 civil conflicts and at least 1000 battles. Total casualties as a direct result of these wars are estimated to be at least 16.2 million, with many more killed or disabled by diseases caused by civil wars. The authors of CEPR DP6568 examine whether civil wars are partly caused by low economic growth, and whether the effects are significantly weaker in democracies. The results point to an interaction between economic and democratic institutional causes of civil war.

Estimating the casual effect of economic growth on civil war is difficult, since expected future wars tend to reduce investment and therefore growth. There are also many difficult-to-measure economic, social, political, and institutional factors that may affect both growth and the likelihood of civil war. The approach the authors take is to exploit the effect of international commodity prices between 1980 and 2003 on income growth in 39 Sub-Saharan African countries.

This analysis reveals that lower international commodity price growth raises the likelihood of civil war incidence and onset. A 5-percentage points fall in income growth raises the likelihood of civil war by around 6%. The effect is significantly weaker in countries with democratic institutions, where the authors find no impact of income growth on civil war. Hence, the findings do not support the view that lower income growth raises the chance of civil war independently of a country’s institutional setup.

DP6568 Growth, Democracy, and Civil War

Journalists are entitled to free DP downloads on request; please contact [email protected]. To learn more about subscribing to CEPR's Discussion Paper Series, please visit the CEPR website.


Topics:  Politics and economics

Tags:  growth, Commodity prices, rainfall, civil war


CEPR Policy Research