'Polarization, Horizontal Inequalities and Violent Civil Conflict

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Political Economy of Civil Wars
  Polarization, Horizontal Inequalities and Violent Civil ConflictAuthor(s): Gudrun ØstbySource: Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 45, No. 2, Special Issue on Polarization and Conflict(Mar., 2008), pp. 143-162Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27640647 . Accessed: 30/03/2014 14:36 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.  . Sage Publications, Ltd.  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to  Journal of Peace Research. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from on Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:36:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  ? 2008 Journal of eace Research, vol. 45, no. 2, 2008, pp. 143-162 Sage Publications Los Angeles, ondon, ew Delhi and Singapore) httpilljpr.sagepub.com DOI10.1177/0022343307087169 Polarization, Horizontal Inequalities and Violent Civil Conflict* GUDRUN 0STBY Department of Political Science, University of Oslo; and Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW), International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) Recent large-N studies of civil war conclude that inequality does not increase the risk of violent conflict. This article argues that such conclusions may be premature because these studies, which usually test the conflict potential of Vertical inequality' (i.e. income inequality between individuals), tend to neglect the group aspect of inequality. Case studies suggest that what matters for conflict is a concept closely linked to both economic and ethnic polarization: 'horizontal inequalities', or inequalities that coincide with identity-based cleavages. Horizontal inequalities may enhance both grievances and group cohesion among the relatively deprived and thus facilitate mobilization for conflict. This article provides a quan titative test of this argument, exploring whether various forms of polarization and horizontal inequali ties affect the probability of civil conflict onset across 36 developing countries in the period 1986-2004. National household data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) are used to construct measures of ethnic, social and economic polarization, as well as vertical and horizontal inequalities along two dimensions: social and economic. The article also introduces a combined measure of ethnic/socio economic polarization as an alternative to the horizontal inequality measure. Robust results from panel and cross-section analyses show that social polarization and horizontal social inequality are positively related to conflict outbreak. Variables for purely ethnic polarization, inter-individual inequalities and combined ethnic/socio-economic polarization are not significant. Introduction Simple inequality between rich and poor is not enough to cause violent conflict. What is highly explosive is ... 'horizontal' inequality: when power and resources are unequally distributed between groups that are also differentiated in other ways ? for instance by race, religion or language. So-called 'ethnic' conflicts occur between groups which are distinct in one or more of these ways, when one of them feels it is being discriminated against, or another enjoys privileges which it fears to lose. (Annan, 1999) Over the past few years, prominent large-N studies of civil war seem to have reached a con sensus that inequality does not increase the risk f civil war (e.g. Collier & Hoeffler, 2004; Fearon & Laitin, 2003; Hegre, Gissinger & * 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. This article reflects only the author's views and the Community is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. An earlier version was presented to the PAC Winter Meeting in Barcelona, 10?11 December 2004 and to the 46th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, Honolulu, HI, 1?5 March 2005, and I thank the discussants and participants in those meetings. I am also grateful to Juha Auvinen, Tanja Ellingsen, James Fearon, Scott Gates, Nils Petter Gleditsch, H?vard Hegre, Jo Thori Lind, Nicholas Sambanis, Henrik Urdal, two anonymous referees and the editors of this special issue for helpful comments. A special thanks to H?vard Strand for useful insights and technical assistance in generating several of the variables. The data, codebook and do-files used in the analysis, as well as the online appendix, are available at http:// www.prio.no/jpr/ datasets. Correspondence: gudrun.ostby@ stv.uio.no. 143 This content downloaded from on Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:36:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  144 journal of Peace Research volume 451 number / march 2008 Gleditsch, 2003). I argue in this article that this conclusion is potentially false, because these studies largely neglect the group aspect of inequality. Civil wars are group conflicts ? not confrontations between individuals randomly fighting each other (Duelos, Esteban & Ray, 2004). Hence, the focus should be on polarization, or inequal ity between groups, not between individuals. Inequalities that coincide with ethnic cleav ages may enhance both grievances and group cohesion among the relatively deprived and thus facilitate mobilization for conflict (Gurr, 2000; Murshed & Gates, 2005; Stewart, 2000). Such systematic inequalities between ethnic groups are closely related to both ethnic and economic polarization, and are often referred to as 'horizontal inequali ties' (His). His should be distinguished from Vertical inequality', which relates to inequal ity between individuals (see Stewart, 2000). Moreover, the majority of inequality-conflict studies concentrate exclusively on economic income inequality, thus failing to capture the multidimensional nature of inequality. In a series of case studies, Stewart (2002) found that various horizontal inequalities have provoked some kind of conflict, ranging from severe criminality in Brazil to civil war in Uganda and Sri Lanka. These studies provide deep insight into the specific cases but are less suited for generalizing to a universal relation ship between His and conflict. Furthermore, Stewart may be criticized for selecting on the dependent (and independent) variable(s), since she investigates only countries where His have led to some kind of conflict. In order to assess the general relationship between His and conflict, one needs a systematic, large-N quantitative research design. The main objec tive of this article is to provide such a study and also to compare pure measures of ethnic and socio-economic polarization, respectively, with HI measures and measures of two dimensional polarization, which cover both ethnic and socio-economic aspects. The analysis is based on a new dataset constructed from microdata from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for 39 developing countries in the period 1986-2004. I construct aggregated macro indicators of polarization and horizontal inequalities. The latter refers to inequality between the two largest ethnic groups in each country along two dimensions: economic (ownership of various household assets) and social (educational opportunities). The article is structured as follows: I first discuss some problems with the inequality conflict literature. Next, I present a theoretical framework for studying polarization, horizon tal inequalities and civil conflict, followed by the research design. Finally, I present my empirical results. he main findings are that social polarization and horizontal social inequality are positively related to conflict out break. This indicates that it s too early to reject the inequality?conflict nexus and that future research should focus more on the interplay between ethnicity and socio-economic distrib utions. The terms for purely ethnic polariza tion and purely socio-economic inter-individual inequalities are not significant in the analysis. Neither is the combined measure of ethnic/ socio-economic polarization. Problems with the Inequality?Conflict Literature A remarkably diverse literature, heoretical as well as empirical, has evolved as a response to the proposition that political violence is func tion of economic inequality. There are, in theory, five possible relationships between eco nomic inequality and political conflict: posi tive, negative, convex (inverted U-shaped), concave (U-shaped) or null. The empirical lit erature provides examples of all.1 Ever since the publication of a seminal paper by Russett 1 Lichbach (1989) located 43 quantitative studies of the inequality?conflict nexus. This content downloaded from on Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:36:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  Gudrun 0stby Horizontal Inequalities 145 (1964), scholars have tried to statistically determine the relationship between vertical inequality and political conflict. However, incompatible results have left us confused as to whether there is a relationship between inequality and conflict - and if so, what is this relationship? (See e.g. Alesina & Perotti, 1996; Auvinen & Nafziger, 1999; Collier & Hoeffler, 2004; Fearon & Laitin, 2003; Hegre, Gissinger & Gleditsch, 2003; M?ller & Seligson, 1987; Nagel, 1974; Parvin, 1973; Sigelman & Simpson, 1977; Weede, 1981.) Most traditional studies of inequality and conflict relate to the theory of relative depri vation (see Gurr, 1970). This theory argues that while absolute poverty may lead to apathy and inactivity, comparisons with those in the same society who do better may result in violence. Recent work on civil war has distinguished between so-called greed driven and grievance-driven rebellion: on the one hand, rationalist theories that focus on the opportunities to organize a rebellion (greed) and, on the other hand, relative deprivation theories that focus on motives for groups to change their situation. Collier & Hoeffler (2004) discuss several grievances (e.g. inequality, lack of political rights, and ethnic divisions) as well as opportunities for forming a rebel organization (e.g. access to finance and natural resources), and inequal ity is among the grievance factors that they largely dismiss. The greed-grievance' debate merits further examination. However, it should not be framed in either-or' terms, as the key seems to be to understand the inter action between grievances and opportunity structures (see e.g. Schock, 1996).2 2 Although political opportunities may moderate the rela tionship between His (or polarization) and conflict (Schock, 1996), such interaction effects are not reported herein, as my focus is the link between various forms of polarization, His and conflict. However, I also ran all models with measures of political regime type and interac tions with His, but the results were insignificant. While a standard critique about missing control variables, poor data3 and statistical shortcomings would probably apply to several of the studies mentioned above, there is a more fundamental and conceptual problem that produces the conflicting results concerning the inequality?conflict nexus. All these studies take an individualistic approach to inequality, concentrating exclusively on inequality among individuals, even though what they are trying to explain is group conflict. This may explain why so many researchers have failed to find a relationship between inequality and civil war.4 The second problem with the inequal ity-conflict literature is that most studies consider only economic inequality, usually measured as income inequality. This is also true for the most recent studies, almost all of which use the inequality data provided by Deininger & Squire (1996) and UNU/ WIDER & UNDP (2000). Sen (1992: 28) asks a question that is essential for the present inquiry: 'Equality of what?', stressing that inequality can be much more than just in come inequality measured by the Gini index. He focuses on three different categories of equality: equality of income or other finan cial assets; equality of welfare; and equal rights and liberties. Stewart (2002) concurs that inequalities may occur in political, eco nomic and social dimensions. In sum, inequal ity is not necessarily unrelated to conflict, but the relationship depends on whether we focus on individuals or groups, and what dimen sion of inequality we try to measure. Finally, there has been a recent focus on the need to incorporate measures of polarization 3 A problem with the income inequality data is the high level of missing observations. Furthermore, this pattern is non-random, that is, we have fewer inequality data for con flict-ridden countries. This problem is likely to be less severe here, since the HI data are generated from surveys of which the srcinal intention was not to assess inequalities. 4 Exceptions include Besan?on (2005) and Midlarsky (1999), who do find an impact of (certain kinds of) verti cal inequality on (certain forms of) political violence. This content downloaded from on Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:36:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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