Horizontal Inequality and Civil War [Do Ethnic Group Inequalities Influence the Risk of Domestic Armed Conflict?]

Master Thesis

Østby, Gudrun (2003) Horizontal Inequality and Civil War [Do Ethnic Group Inequalities Influence the Risk of Domestic Armed Conflict?]. MA thesis, Supervisors: Tanja Ellingsen, NTNU; Nils Petter Gleditsch, PRIO (completed 15 August, defended 5 September), NTNU, .

Recent studies of civil war (notably various studies conducted for the major World Bank study of civil war) conclude that vertical inequality (between individuals) does not increase the risk of internal armed conflict. [...]

Recent studies of civil war (notably various studies conducted for the major World Bank study of civil war) conclude that vertical inequality (between individuals) does not increase the risk of internal armed conflict. This thesis argues that such studies neglect a vital aspect of human well-being and conflict – the group aspect. Systematic inequalities that coincide with ethnic cleavages in a country are referred to as horizontal inequalities. Furthermore, to grasp the complexity of the inequality–conflict nexus we must also look at various dimensions of inequality, not only the economic one. Theoretically, inequality is generally regarded as a typical grievance factor. This thesis argues that horizontal inequality may also be an opportunity factor, and proposes a synthetic theory of horizontal inequality and conflict. Using data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for 33 developing countries, this thesis reports aggregated macro-indicators on inequality between ethnic groups, along three dimensions: social, economic and health-related. The thesis analyzes the relationship between such horizontal inequalities among the two largest ethnic groups in a country and their effects on the incidence and onset of domestic armed conflict, respectively. The main finding of this study is that horizontal inequalities between ethnic groups seem to be positively related to domestic armed conflict. Furthermore, I find some evidence that vertical inequality is negatively related to domestic armed conflict. This indicates that horizontal and vertical inequalities have opposite effects on civil war, and that societies with sharp inequalities between ethnic groups, but with low inequality within the groups – have the highest risk of domestic armed conflict.

Authors

Gudrun Østby

Gudrun Østby

Senior Researcher