How Much War Will We See? Estimating the Incidence of Civil War in 161 Countries

34 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Ibrahim Elbadawi

Ibrahim Elbadawi

World Bank - Economic Development Institute

Nicholas Sambanis

Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: November 1999

Abstract

As important as knowing how wars start and end is knowing how much war we are likely to observe in any given period. In strategies for preventing civil war, political liberalization should be a higher priority than economic development, but the best possible results would combine political reform, economic diversification, and poverty reduction.

Quantitative studies of civil war have focused either on war's onset or its termination, producing important insights into these end points of the process. Elbadawi and Sambanis complement these studies by studying how much war we are likely to observe in any given period.

To answer this question, they combine recent advances in the theory of civil war initiation and duration and develop the concept of war incidence, denoting the probability of observing an event of civil war in any given period. They test theories of war initiation and duration against this new concept using a five-year panel data set for 161 countries. Their analysis of the incidence of war corroborates most of the results of earlier studies, enriching those results by highlighting the significance of sociopolitical variables as determinants of the risk of civil war. Their findings: - Steps toward advancing political liberalization or economic development reduce the risk of civil war, whatever the degree of ethnolinguistic fractionalization in a society. - This effect is amplified in polarized societies. The probability of civil war is lower in very homogeneous societies and (less so) in more diverse societies. - In polarized societies the risk of civil war can be reduced by political rather than economic liberalization. At high levels of political freedom, ethnic diversity - even polarization - has a minimal impact on the risk of civil war. - Economic diversification that would reduce a country's reliance on primary exports would also reduce the risk of civil wars, especially in polarized societies. - In strategies for preventing civil war, political liberalization should be a higher priority than economic development, but the best possible results would combine political reform, economic diversification, and poverty reduction.

This paper - a product of Public Economics, Development Research Group - is part of a larger effort in the group to study the economics of violence. The study was funded by the Bank's Research Support Budget under the research project "The Economics of Political and Criminal Violence" (RPO 682-99). The authors may be contacted at ielbadawi@worldbank.org or nsambanis@worldbank.org.

Suggested Citation

Elbadawi, Ibrahim and Sambanis, Nicholas, How Much War Will We See? Estimating the Incidence of Civil War in 161 Countries (November 1999). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 2533. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=632603

Ibrahim Elbadawi (Contact Author)

World Bank - Economic Development Institute ( email )

1818 H Street
Washington, DC 20433
United States

HOME PAGE: http://econ.worldbank.org/staff/ielbadawi

Nicholas Sambanis

Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
160
Abstract Views
1,098
rank
186,758
PlumX Metrics