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Earthquakes and Civil War

Authors Pelle Ahlerup
Publisher University of Gothenburg
Place of publication Göteborg
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Economics
Language en
Keywords civil war, earthquakes, natural disasters
Subject categories Economics


Natural disasters claim thousands of lives each year and can be a heavy burden for already vulnerable societies. Are natural disasters also a cause of violent con- flict? While most studies based on systematic empirical research do find this to be the case, there are also known cases where natural disasters have contributed to a de-escalation of fighting. This paper shows, theoretically and empirically, that mod- erate earthquakes increase the risk of civil wars, but that stronger (and therefore more rare) earthquakes instead reduce the risk of civil wars. We use an exhaustive dataset on earthquakes from 1947 to 2001 collected by seismologists. The associ- ation between earthquakes and the incidence of civil war is decomposed into two separate effects: they affect the risk that new civil wars are started and they affect the chance that existing civil wars are terminated.

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