Group inequality and the severity of civil conflict

Forthcoming

Authors: John D. Huber and Laura Mayoral

Journal of Economic Growth

Civil conflicts, which have been much more prevalent than inter-state conflicts over the last fifty years, vary enormously in their intensity, with some causing millions of deaths and some far fewer. The central goal of this paper is to test an argument from previous theoretical research that high inequality within an ethnic group can make inter-ethnic conflict more violent because such inequality decreases the opportunity cost to poor group members of fighting, and also decreases the opportunity cost to rich group members of funding the conflict. To test this argument, we create a new data set that uses individual-level surveys to measure inequality within ethnic groups. The analysis using these data provide strong evidence for the importance of within-group inequality, and thus underscores the value of focusing on the capacity of groups to fight if one wishes to limit the destruction of civil conflicts.