Regional Inequalities and Civil Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa1

Authors

  • Gudrun ØStby,

    1. Department of Political Science, University of Oslo and Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW), International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)
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  • Ragnhild Nordås,

    1.  Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW), International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) and Harvard University
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  • Jan Ketil Rød

    1.  Department of Geography, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW), International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)
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  • 1

     This article is part of the Polarization and Conflict Project CIT-2-CT-2004-506084 funded by the European Commission-DG Research Sixth Framework Programme. An earlier version was presented at the 47th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, San Diego, CA, 22–25 March 2006, and the workshop Polarization and Conflict, Nicosia, Cyprus, 26–29 April 2006. We thank the discussants and participants at those meetings. We are also grateful to Scott Gates, Nils Petter Gleditsch, James D. Morrow, Anne Julie Semb, three anonymous referees, and former ISQ Editor T. David Mason for helpful comments. A special thanks to Håvard Strand for useful insights and technical assistance in generating the graphs. All reported analyses were conducted in Stata 9.2. Replication data, command files, and an online appendix are available via the Dataverse Network Project (http://dvn.iq.harvard.edu/dvn/dv/isq) and the ISA data archive page (http://www.isanet.org/data_archive/).

Abstract

The case study literature is ripe with examples of a positive association between inequality and civil war, but systematic country-level studies have largely failed to find a significant relationship. One reason for this discrepancy may be that large-N studies tend to ignore spatial variations in group welfare within countries, although civil wars often take place within limited areas. We address this gap in the literature by applying GIS operations to Demographic and Health Surveys to construct new disaggregated data on welfare and socioeconomic inequalities between and within subnational regions in 22 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. These measures are coupled with geographical data on the location of conflict zones for the period 1986–2004. We find that conflict onsets are more likely in regions with (1) low levels of education; (2) strong relative deprivation regarding household assets; (3) strong intraregional inequalities; and (4) combined presence of natural resources and relative deprivation.

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