Benedict Clements, Sanjeev Gupta, Saida Khamidova, 06 October 2019

Worldwide military spending as a percentage of GDP in the years since the Global Crisis has been at nearly half its level during the Cold War. This column identifies three groups into which spending has been converging. It also shows that external threat levels are a factor in determining military spending, but only in developing economies. The results suggest a significant peace dividend from reducing internal conflicts, with a country that moves from the bottom 25% to the top 25% of developing countries on political stability and the absence of violence/terrorism likely to reduce military spending by about half a percentage point of GDP. 

Irena Grosfeld, Seyhun Orcan Sakalli, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 03 October 2019

It is commonly argued that political instability increases the likelihood of civil conflicts, while economic downturns can trigger civil conflict and aggravate ethnic violence. This column examines how political and economic factors interact to drive pogroms in an environment of widespread antisemitism, using data from the Russian Empire of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It finds that pogrom waves took place when and only when economic shocks coincided with political turmoil, and that occupational segregation between the Jews and the majority played an important role in triggering ethnic violence.  

Cevat Giray Aksoy, Panu Poutvaara, 05 September 2019

About 1.4 million refugees and irregular migrants arrived in Europe in 2015 and 2016, but little is known about their socio-demographic characteristics and motivations. This column presents the first large-scale evidence on why those who crossed the Mediterranean in 2015 and 2016 had left their home countries. While the vast majority were escaping conflict, the main motivation for a significant number of migrants from countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Pakistan was a desire to seek out better economic opportunities. People who are educated to secondary or tertiary level are more likely to migrate than people with lower levels of education, particularly when fleeing a major conflict, and these people are more likely to head for countries that have more comprehensive migrant integration policies.

Nicola Gennaioli, Guido Tabellini, 06 June 2019

In recent decades, the political systems of advanced democracies have witnessed large changes, often in reaction to economic shocks due to globalisation and technology.  This column uses insights from the social psychology of groups to explain how when large shocks hit, new cleavages in society emerge. This causes individuals to shift their beliefs about themselves and others in the direction of new social stereotypes. If globalisation clusters society in a nationalist versus cosmopolitan cleavage instead of the traditional left versus right, this may dampen demand for redistribution despite potential increases in income inequality. 

Dominic Rohner, Alessandro Saia, 05 May 2019

It is widely believed that education is a crucial factor in curbing political violence, but establishing causal evidence of this notoriously difficult. This column uses a large-scale school construction programme in Indonesia and newspaper reports of violence to tackle this problem. The results show that the construction of primary schools led to statistically significant reductions in conflict that grew larger over time. 

Alison Booth, Xin Meng, 25 March 2019

The literature examining the effect of conflict on trust and trustworthiness has reached contradictory conclusions. This column studies the long-term behavioural impact of the Cultural Revolution in China, which was a major in-group conflict. It finds that the children and grandchildren of those who were mentally or physically abused during the Revolution are less trusting, less trustworthy, and less likely to be competitively inclined relative to peers whose parents/grandparents experienced the Cultural Revolution but were not directly mistreated. 

Rafael Ch, Jacob Shapiro, Abbey Steele, Juan F. Vargas, 29 January 2019

It is widely accepted that war between states can lead to increased fiscal capacity. Yet, there is no similarly clear, historically consistent accounting of how civil wars have affected state capacity and tax revenues. Using recent evidence from Colombia, this column shows that municipalities affected by internal conflict have tax institutions consistent with the preferences of the parties that have managed to inflict more violence in the past. Internal armed conflict can help interest groups capture municipal institutions for their own private benefit, impeding state-building.

Francesco Amodio, Michele Di Maio, 09 December 2018

The economic impact of conflict can be catastrophic, but disentangling and identifying the different ways in which conflict affects the economy is challenging. Using data from the Occupied Palestinian Territory during the Second Intifada, this column examines the specific mechanisms through which economic losses materialise in a conflict zone with low-intensity violence. The findings highlight the close interaction between security and trade issues, calling for an integrated policy approach acting on both fronts.

Hannes Mueller, Dominic Rohner, 22 January 2018

Power sharing has been proposed as a potential solution to political violence in ethnically or religiously diverse countries. Using data from the Troubles in Northern Ireland, this column shows that power sharing has significant and substantial effects in terms of curbing violence. These positive effects disappear when power sharing ends, however, implying that that political cooperation and inclusion need to be maintained in the long run if the benefits of lower violence are to continue.

Jacob Moscona, Nathan Nunn, James Robinson, 09 January 2018

In recent years, it has become clear that characteristics of pre-colonial African societies are an important determinant of their current economic development. This column evaluates the hypothesis that segmentary lineage organisation – a common social structure among ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa – causes more conflict today. Ethnic groups in Africa with a social structure marked by kinship are found to show a greater propensity for violent conflict.

Raul Sanchez de la Sierra, 19 December 2017

We have theories of why states form, but until now no systematic data on the process. This column uses a new dataset on 650 locations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to explain why armed actors may create the functions of a state. When a village's output was valuable but could not easily be taxed, armed actors developed sophisticated fiscal and legal administrations to extract revenue. Household welfare improved only when these stationary bandits had ties to the population.

Gilles Carbonnier, 22 July 2017

Economists can help better understand and address some of today’s toughest humanitarian challenges. This column argues that the economics of war and disaster – which includes foreign aid – is largely untapped as a field of study and practice. While humanitarian economics has the potential to improve our knowledge of these problems, and the outcomes for those affected by them, it must take account of the ethical and epistemological issues, and the benefits of interdisciplinary cooperation.

Hannes Mueller, Dominic Rohner, David Schönholzer, 12 July 2017

The nature of military and social conflict has changed in the last three decades, particularly in the way it impacts civilians locally. This column presents new research that models localised conflict based on the spatial configuration of groups, using evidence from conflict in Northern Ireland. The model can help target policies at the origin of attacks and with attempts to change the interaction between local groups, reducing conflict in the short-to-medium term.

Nicolas Berman, Mathieu Couttenier, Dominic Rohner, Mathias Thoenig, 09 June 2017

Countries that are rich in natural resources do not always prosper economically. This column uses data on conflict and mineral extraction in Africa to argue that recent rises in mineral prices explain up to a quarter of local conflicts between 1997 and 2010. Mining-induced violence is associated with foreign ownership, although corporate social responsibility policies were associated with less violence. This is relevant to the US debate on whether to scrap the legal requirement to disclose whether products contain conflict minerals. 

Travers Barclay Child, 21 May 2017

The pervasive ‘hearts and minds’ theory guiding counterinsurgency doctrine contends that military-led reconstruction reduces violence in post-conflict settings. Using rare data from Afghanistan, this column questions the theoretical and empirical basis of that perspective. Military-led projects in the health sector are found to successfully alleviate violence, whereas those in the education sector actually provoke conflict. The destabilising effects of education projects are strongest in conservative areas, where public opinion polls suggest education projects breed antipathy towards international forces.

Roberto Ezcurra, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 13 April 2017

Spatial inequality is understood as a function of geography or administrative planning, but its relation to ethnic segregation is less well understood. This column analyses this relationship using regional data for 71 countries with different levels of economic development. The degree of spatial concentration of ethnic groups is a robust and highly significant predictor of within-country income disparities. More ethnically segregated countries experience higher levels of spatial inequality and are thus more prone to conflict.

Andrea Guariso, Thorsten Rogall, 04 April 2017

There is a lively debate about the role of inequality as a trigger of ethnic conflicts. This column reports groundbreaking research into the effect of the amount of regional rainfall on crops, which is used to measure inequality between ethnic groups. Inequality caused by the weather's effect on crops has a large and significant impact on the prevalence of ethnic conflict. This effect is strongest when a lack of rainfall penalises ethnic groups with no access to power. 

Klaus Desmet, Joseph Flavian Gomes, Ignacio Ortuño-Ortin, 17 March 2017

Diverse countries tend to have more conflict, lower development, and worse public goods, possibly due to antagonism between groups. Based on recent research mapping local linguistic diversity across the entire globe, this column argues that local interaction with people of other ethnolinguistic groups can mitigate the negative effect of overall diversity on a country’s outcomes in health, education and public goods. This finding lends support to policies that influence the local mixing of ethnolinguistic groups.  

Hannes Mueller, Christopher Rauh, 20 October 2016

Effective forecasting of conflict risk could help prevent civil wars. But resource constraints mean that policymakers rarely act until conflict begins because they fear the number of false positive warnings. This column argues that the policy of reacting to violence instead of preventing it cannot be justified, given the accuracy of simple forecasting models such as news analysis.

Klaus Desmet, Ignacio Ortuño-Ortin, Romain Wacziarg, 31 July 2016

The current refugee crisis has highlighted the importance of understanding how ethnic and cultural differences affect social cohesion. This column investigates the links between ethnicity and culture, and the relationship between diversity and civil conflict. It finds that globally, there appears to be little overlap between ethnic identity and cultural identity. Also, ethnic diversity per se has no effect on civil conflict. It is when differences in culture coincide with differences in ethnicity that conflict becomes more likely.

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