Civil Wars and Economic Growth: Spatial Dispersion


  • James C. Murdoch,

  • Todd Sandler

  • The research for this article was funded, in part, by a grant from the World Bank. All opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and in no way reflect those of the World Bank. We have profited from the comments of four anonymous referees and the journal editors on earlier drafts. The data are available from James Murdoch.

James C. Murdoch is Dean of the School of Social Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75083 ( Todd Sandler is the Robert R. and Katheryn A. Dockson Professor of International Relations and Economics, University of Southern California, Von Kleinsmid Center 330, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0043 (


This article quantifies the impact of civil wars on economic growth at home and in nearby countries. Three alternative measures of nearness—contiguity, length of contiguous borders, and distance of closest approach—are used to capture the spatial dispersion of civil war consequences. We present short-run panel estimates (at five-year intervals) and long-run (1961–95) panel estimates for the world. Generally, the distance measures, novel to this study, and not contiguity provides the most accurate measure of the diffusion of the negative economic consequences of civil wars on other countries. Unlike earlier studies, we also investigate the temporal influence of civil wars on growth at home and in nearby countries. Both the duration and the timing of civil wars have an economic impact.