Regional Inequalities and Civil Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Østby, Gudrun; Ragnhild Nordås & Jan Ketil Rød (2009) Regional Inequalities and Civil Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa, International Studies Quarterly 53(2): 301–324.

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​​The case study literature is ripe with examples of a positive association between inequality and civil war, but systematic country-level studies have largely failed to find a significant relationship. One reason for this discrepancy may be that large-N studies tend to ignore spatial variations in group welfare within countries, although civil wars often take place within limited areas. We address this gap in the literature by applying GIS operations to Demographic and Health Surveys to construct new disaggregated data on welfare and socioeconomic inequalities between and within subnational regions in 22 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. These measures are coupled with geographical data on the location of conflict zones for the period 1986–2004. We find that conflict onsets are more likely in regions with (1) low levels of education; (2) strong relative deprivation regarding household assets; (3) strong intraregional inequalities; and (4) combined presence of natural resources and relative deprivation.

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