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Type Working Paper - Social Science Research Network Research Paper Series
Title Local state history and contemporary conflict: Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa?
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
I examine empirically the role of historical political centralization on the likelihood of modern civil conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. I combine a wide variety of historical sources to construct an original measure of long-run exposure to statehood at the sub-national level. I then exploit within-country variation in this new measure along with georeferenced conflict data to document a robust negative statistical relationship between local long-run exposure to state institutions and contemporary conflict. From a variety of identification strategies I provide evidence suggesting that the relationship is causal. I argue that regions with long experience with statehood are better equipped with mechanisms to establish and preserve order. Consistently with this hypothesis, I provide evidence that those regions are less prone to experience conflict when hit by a negative economic shock. I finally exploit contemporary individual-level survey data for 18 Sub-Saharan countries to show that within-country long history of statehood is linked to people’s positive attitudes toward local state institutions and traditional leaders.

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