DP9895 | External shocks, internal shots: the geography of civil conflicts

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This paper uses detailed information on the latitude and longitude of conflict events in Sub-Saharan African countries to study the impact of external income shocks on the likelihood of violence. We consider a number of external demand shocks faced by the countries or the regions within countries - temporary shocks such as changes in the world demand for agricultural commodities, and longer-lasting events such as financial crises in the partner countries - and combine these with information reflecting the natural level of trade openness of the location. We find that (i) the incidence, intensity and onset of conflicts are generally negatively and significantly correlated with income variations at the local level; (ii) this relationship is significantly weaker for the most remote locations, i.e those located away from the main seaports, (iii) at the country-level, these shocks have an insignificant impact on the overall probability of conflict outbreak, but do affect the probability that conflicts start in the most opened regions. Altogether, our results therefore suggest that external income shocks are important determinants of the intensity and geography of conflicts, and provide support in favor of the opportunity cost theories of war.