Civil War, Public Goods and the Social Wealth of Nations

44 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2002

See all articles by Ravi Kanbur

Ravi Kanbur

Cornell University; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

David A. Pottebaum

Cornell University - School of Applied Economics and Management

Date Written: January 2002

Abstract

This Paper establishes and explores the implications of a somewhat surprising empirical finding. Although civil war adversely affects the performance of social indicators in general, poorer countries lose less, in absolute and relative terms, than richer countries. It is argued that the explanation may lie in the extent to which richer countries have better social (and economic) indicators because of more public goods, and adaptation of economic and social mechanisms to the greater abundance of public goods such as physical infrastructure. Civil war destroys public goods, and therefore damages disproportionately the countries most dependent on them. A further implication of this framework is that the post-conflict rebound in social indicators should be relatively stronger in poorer countries. The data bear out this prediction. Our results should not of course be read as implying that poorer countries need less support to avoid civil war and to cope with its aftermath. Although their losses are less, they start from a lower base; so even small declines severely impact human well being. Properly understood, our results highlight the central role that public goods play in underpinning the social (and economic) wealth of nations.

Keywords: Civil war, public goods, post-conflict, social indicators

JEL Classification: H41, O10, O15

Suggested Citation

Kanbur, Ravi and Pottebaum, David A., Civil War, Public Goods and the Social Wealth of Nations (January 2002). CEPR Discussion Paper No. 3124. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=297943

Ravi Kanbur (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

301-J Warren Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
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607-255-7966 (Phone)
607-255-9984 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.kanbur.dyson.cornell.edu

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

David A. Pottebaum

Cornell University - School of Applied Economics and Management ( email )

248 Warren Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-1578 (Phone)
607-255-9984 (Fax)

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