Discussion paper

DP6980 Poverty and Civil War: Revisiting the evidence

A popular "stylized fact" is that poverty is a main determinant of civil war: several scholars have interpreted the correlation between the two as evidence supporting this claim. In this paper, we find that the relationship between poverty and civil war is spurious, and is accounted for by historical phenomena that jointly determine income evolution and conflict. In particular, the statistical association between poverty, as proxied by income per capita, and civil wars disappears once we include country fixed effects. Also, using cross-section data for 1960-2005, we find that once historical variables like European settler mortality rates and the population density in 1500 are included in civil war regressions, poverty does not have an effect on civil wars. These results are confirmed using longer time series from 1825 to 2000.


Djankov, S and M Reynal-Querol (2008), ‘DP6980 Poverty and Civil War: Revisiting the evidence‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 6980. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp6980