DP12552 The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions

Author(s): Samuel Bazzi, Matthew Gudgeon
Publication Date: January 2018
Date Revised: March 2019
Keyword(s): conflict, Decentralization, Ethnic Divisions, Polarization, Political Boundaries
JEL(s): D72, D74, H41, H77, O13, Q34
Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12552

This paper argues that redrawing subnational political boundaries can transform ethnic divisions. We use a policy experiment in Indonesia to show how the effects of ethnic diversity on conflict depend on the political units within which groups are organized. Redistricting along group lines can reduce conflict, but these gains are undone or even reversed when the new borders introduce greater polarization. These adverse effects of polarization are further amplified around majoritarian elections, consistent with strong incentives to capture new local governments in settings with ethnic favoritism. Overall, our findings illustrate the promise and pitfalls of redistricting in diverse countries.