Skip to main content

The Economics of Grievances and Ethnic Conflicts

Final Report Summary - GRIEVANCES (The Economics of Grievances and Ethnic Conflicts)

GRIEVANCES is a research project intended at studying theoretically and empirically the role played by grievances and hostile beliefs in ethnic conflicts. In particular, I analyze the formation of oppositional ethnic identities, which correspond to group-specific systems of beliefs leading to distrust and use of violence. The project is composed of three parts.

The first part consists in several models of oppositional ethnic identities. Paper [1] builds a theory arguing that trust is a main determinant of civil conflict, and that inter-ethnic trade is the channel linking the dynamics of trust and conflict. Paper [3] provides a theory of conflict focusing explicitly on informal networks of alliances and enmities, and applies it econometrically to the study of the Second Congo War (1998-2003) and its aftermath. Paper [7] estimates a structural model of inter-generational transmission of ethnic identity, in a context of social tension and discrimination but below that of the intensity of a civil conflict. We focus on a particular ethnic group in France, namely first, second and third generations of migrants from Maghreb (N. Africa).

The second part (paper [6]) investigates empirically how social identity and beliefs affect the propensity to conflicts. Due to the challenge posed by the manipulation of social identity and beliefs, this part relies heavily on lab experiments. Our empirical findings are consistent with the phenotypic predictions of evolutionary theories of parochial altruism: Participants in our experiment exhibit strong aggression in the absence of any strategic motive and aggression is not observed in isolation but combined with in-group cooperation.

The third part studies empirically the impact of conflicts on oppositional ethnic identities and beliefs. Paper [2] investigates the effects of civil conflict on social capital and trust, focusing on the experience of Uganda during the last decade. Paper [4] investigates the impact of mining on ethnic conflict by using geolocalized data on conflict events and mining extraction of 15 minerals for all African countries over the 1997-2010 period. Paper [5] analyzes empirically whether the past exposure to conflict in their country of origin makes migrants more crime prone in their host country, focusing on asylum seekers in Switzerland.

[1] Rohner D., Thoenig M. & Zilibotti F., 2013, ”War Signals: A Theory of Trade, Trust and
Conflict”, Review of Economic Studies, 80(3), 1114-1147.
[2] Rohner D., Thoenig M. & Zilibotti F., 2013, “Seeds of distrust: conflict in Uganda”, Journal of
Economic Growth, 18(3), 217-252
[3] Koenig M., Rohner D., Thoenig M. & Zilibotti F. , 2017, “Networks in Conflict Theory and
Evidence from the Great War of Africa”, Econometrica, 85, 1093-1132
[4] Berman N., Rohner D., Thoenig M & Couttenier M. , 2017,” This mine is mine! How minerals
fuel conflicts in Africa, American Economic Review, 107, 1564-1610.
[5] Couttenier M., Thoenig M., Preotu V. & Rohner D., 2017, “The Violent Legacy of Conflict:
Evidence on Asylum Seekers, Crimes and Public Policy in Switzerland”, American Economic Review, Revise and Resubmit.
[6] Cacault M.Paula Goette Lorenz, Lalive Rafael & Thoenig Mathias, 2015, “Do we harm others
even if we don't need to?”, Frontiers in Psychology, 6(729).
[7] Algan Y., Thoenig M. & Mayer Th., 2014, “The economic incentives of cultural transmission:
spatial evidence from naming patterns across France”, CEPR Working Paper 9416.