Ethnic and religious conflicts, political systems and growth
This thesis studies the importance of ethnic conflict in explaining the poor
economic performance of some countries and the relevance of political institutions
to reduce this effect.
The first two chapters study the role that each dimension of ethnicity
plays in the process of economic development. We cover essentially four issues:
first, and in contrast with the ethnic characteristics considered in many
studies, this thesis emphasizes the importance of religious conflict in the explanation
of economic growth. Second, we consider an index of polarization,
instead of the traditional index of fragmentation, in order to measure conflict.
We provide a theoretical explanation for the index based on a rent-seeking
model approach applied to the behaviour of religious groups. Third, we elaborate
a database of religious diversity within countries and finally we analyze
the channels through which religious polarization affects growth. This constitutes
a new contribution to what has been done until now in the literature
that studies the relation between ethnic diversity and economic growth. The
main finding is that religious conflict is an important factor in explaining
economic growth and it is also an important explanation for the so called
"African growth tragedy". Interestingly, when religious diversity measures
are included the ethnolinguistic diversity measure employed by Easterly and
Levine (1997) turns out to be insignificant suggesting that the former may be
more important in explaining the poor economic performance both in Africa
The third chapter analyzes the effect of political systems on preventing
or reducing violence. It is generally agreed that a high level of democracy is
not a sufficient condition for eliminating the risk of armed conflicts in heterogeneous
societies. We show that the combination of the electoral system
and the democracy level have a high explanatory power on the probability of
a civil war. The reason for the important role of voting rules in preventing
armed conflicts is their relative ability to affect the opportunity cost of rebellion.
Given a particular level of democracy, countries with majoritarian or
presidential systems are more prone to violence than countries with proportional
systems where the opportunity cost of rebellion is higher. Therefore it seems that freedom is not a sufficiently effective vaccine against violence,
even if it is necessary.