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The Elusive Determinants of Civil Wars

Thorsten Janus ORCID logo EMAIL logo


Like the empirical growth literature, the empirical civil war literature has identified few robust determinants. In this paper, I show that the lack of robust estimates is consistent with rational, forward-looking behavior in a simple dynamic conflict model with asymmetric information. The main result is most of the conflict determinants, such as income per capita, inequality, and natural resource revenues, have ambiguous effects on the conflict risk. The ambiguities largely reflect that, when the parameters change, agents re-optimize.

JEL Classification: D74; O38; P48


I am extremely grateful to the referees for a series of very constructive and helpful comments, Klaas T. van’t Veld for reviewing the manuscript and independently simulating the model, Emily Wise for carefully proofreading the paper, and seminar participants at Bates College, the Association for the Study of Nationalities Annual Conference, Columbia University, April 23–25, 2009, and the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 2–5, 2009.


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Published Online: 2019-08-07

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