Economic Prosperity, Grievances, and Civil Conflict

35 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012 Last revised: 25 Jul 2012

See all articles by Vally Koubi

Vally Koubi

University of Bern - Department of Economics

Tobias Boehmelt

ETH Zürich

Date Written: 2012


The ‘greed vs. grievance’ dichotomy has monopolized the debate on the causes of civil conflict. However, there are good reasons to believe that the relationship between civil conflict on one hand, and the economy and grievances on the other hand is a conditional one. To contribute to this, the authors contend that good economic conditions coupled with a possibly unequal distribution of wealth within a country can lead to domestic violence. In particular, the paper demonstrates that we might observe the onset of civil conflict even at high levels of income if some groups are dissatisfied with their share of the national economic prosperity. This substantially increases the risk in turn that these groups revolt in order to take what they consider to be an ‘equal slice of the pie.’ The empirical analyses testing the argument employ data for 1950-2004 at the national level. The authors obtain strong support for their argument and they also show that considering the proclaimed conditional relationship significantly improves our ability to forecast the onset of civil conflict.

Keywords: economic prosperity; income; grievance; civil conflict; forecasting

Suggested Citation

Koubi, Vally and Boehmelt, Tobias, Economic Prosperity, Grievances, and Civil Conflict (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Vally Koubi (Contact Author)

University of Bern - Department of Economics ( email )

Schanzeneckstrasse 1
Bern, CH-3001

Tobias Boehmelt

ETH Zürich ( email )

Zürichbergstrasse 18
8092 Zurich, CH-1015

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