economy models point to rationalist motives for engaging in conflict but say
little about how income shocks translate into collective violence in some cases
but not in others. Grievance models, in contrast, focus on structural origins
of shared frustration but offer less insight into when the deprived decide to
challenge the status quo. Addressing these lacunae, we
develop a theoretical model of civil conflict that predicts income loss to
trigger violent mobilization primarily when the shock can be linked to
pre-existing collective grievances. The conditional argument is supported by
results of a comprehensive global statistical analysis of conflict involvement
among ethnic groups. Consistent with theory, we find that this relationship is
most powerful among recently downgraded groups, especially in the context of
agricultural dependence and low local level of development, whereas political
downgrading in the absence of adverse economic changes exerts less influence on
ethnic conflict risk.
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