Economic Backwardness and Social Tension

35 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2019

See all articles by Christa Brunnschweiler

Christa Brunnschweiler

University of East Anglia, School of Economics

Paivi Lujala


Date Written: April 2019


We propose that relative economic backwardness contributes to the build‐up of social tension and non‐violent and violent conflict. We test our hypothesis using data on organized mass movements and armed civil conflict. The findings show that greater economic backwardness is consistently linked to a higher probability of onset of violent and especially non‐violent forms of civil unrest. We provide evidence that the relationship is causal in instrumental variables estimations using new instruments, including mailing speeds and telegram charges around 1900. The magnitude of the effect of backwardness on social tension increases in the two‐stage least‐squares estimations.

Keywords: Conflict, economic backwardness, economic development, instrumental variables estimation, social tension

Suggested Citation

Brunnschweiler, Christa and Lujala, Paivi, Economic Backwardness and Social Tension (April 2019). The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Vol. 121, Issue 2, pp. 482-516, 2019. Available at SSRN: or

Christa Brunnschweiler (Contact Author)

University of East Anglia, School of Economics ( email )

Norwich Research Park
Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ
United Kingdom

Paivi Lujala

Independent ( email )

No Address Available
United States

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