Is Ethnic Violence Self-Perpetuating? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Hindu-Muslim Riots in India
30 Pages Posted: 1 May 2020 Last revised: 21 Sep 2022
Date Written: April 20, 2020
The conflict trap literature suggests that ethnic violence is self-perpetuating. Testing this hypothesis is challenging, however, as both past and current violence could be determined by the same underlying factors. To overcome this endogeneity problem we exploit that in India the date of Hindu festivals is exogenously determined by the lunar calendar and that when a major Hindu festival falls on a Friday, the holy day for Muslims, the probability of Hindu-Muslim riots rises sharply. In line with the existing literature we find that Hindu-Muslim riots are strongly serially correlated over the 1976 to 2001 period. Importantly, however, this effect turns to null when employing the Hindu festivals instrument. This suggests that Hindu-Muslim riots in India do not tend to be self-perpetuating. This result is especially noteworthy because the literature considers Hindu-Muslim riots to be particularly likely to conform to the conflict trap hypothesis.
Keywords: Conflict Traps, Ethnic Violence, India
JEL Classification: D00, D74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation