The Political Economy of Linguistic Cleavages

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Discussions Paper No. 20

47 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2012

See all articles by Klaus Desmet

Klaus Desmet

Southern Methodist University (SMU); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Ignacio Ortuno-Ortin

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid - Department of Economics

Romain T. Wacziarg

UCLA Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 1, 2011

Abstract

This paper uses a linguistic tree, describing the genealogical relationship between all 6,912 world languages, to compute measures of diversity at different levels of linguistic aggregation.

By doing so, we let the data inform us on which linguistic cleavages are most relevant for a range of political economy outcomes, rather than making ad hoc choices. We find that deep cleavages, originating thousands of years ago, lead to better predictors of civil conflict and redistribution.

The opposite pattern emerges when it comes to the impact of linguistic diversity on growth and public goods provision, where finer distinctions between languages matter.

Keywords: Ethnolinguistic Cleavages, Diversity, Linguistic Trees, Civil Conflict, Redistribution, Public Goods, Growth

JEL Classification: H1, N4, O4, O5

Suggested Citation

Desmet, Klaus and Ortuno-Ortin, Ignacio and Wacziarg, Romain T., The Political Economy of Linguistic Cleavages (February 1, 2011). Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Discussions Paper No. 20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2125034 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2125034

Klaus Desmet (Contact Author)

Southern Methodist University (SMU) ( email )

6212 Bishop Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75275
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Ignacio Ortuno-Ortin

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid - Department of Economics ( email )

Calle Madrid 126
Getafe, 28903
Spain

Romain T. Wacziarg

UCLA Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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