The conflict -- inequality trap? How internal armed conflict affects horizontal inequality

Report - External Series

Dahlum, Sirianne; Håvard Mokleiv Nygård; Siri Aas Rustad; & Gudrun Østby (2019) The conflict -- inequality trap? How internal armed conflict affects horizontal inequality, Background Paper for Human Development Report 2019. United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report Office, New York.

​This background paper examines how conflict affects horizontal inequality. While a large literature looks at how horizontal inequality is linked to the onset of armed conflict, we know very little about if, and how, conflict in turn affects such inequality. We argue that there are good reasons to believe that armed conflict should exacerbate levels of horizontal inequality and that this dynamic in turn has the potential of creating an inequality -- conflict trap akin to the already established economic conflict trap. We examine all intrastate conflicts in 120 countries, for the 1989-2018 period, drawing on measures of inequalities between regions as a proxy for horizontal inequality. We find that low-intensity conflicts are not systematically linked to levels of horizontal inequality. High intensity conflicts, i.e. conflicts that incur more than 1000 battle deaths and last for more than 5 years, in contrast are associated with substantially higher levels of horizontal inequality in the post conflict phase. This pattern endures for many years after the conflict has ended. Combined with previous research demonstrating that horizontal inequality may induce armed conflict, our paper provides suggestive evidence consistent with the notion of an inequality-conflict trap.