James D. Fearon
David D. Laitin
Department of Political Science
This research project
seeks to account for cross-national and cross-group variation in the
outbreak, magnitude and duration of civil wars in the period from the end
of World War II to 2000. Using a definition of civil war that requires a
certain threshold of casualties in fighting between governments and
organized groups seeking either to control the state or separate from it,
we find that civil and ethnic wars should not be viewed as a problem that
begins or even is greatly increased with the end of the Cold War. Rather,
there has been a steady, almost linear accumulation of civil wars in the
period we are examining; civil wars have broken out at a rate if about 2.3
per year, but ended at a rate of only 1.7 per year, making for a steady
growth in the number of festering conflicts. By the high water mark of
1992, more than a quarter of the states in the world were experiencing a
civil war. About two-thirds of these wars can be considered, as
conventionally understood, ethnic wars. Somewhat less than half of them
have been secessionist, and in the remainder, rebels have sought control
over the central state apparatus.
background, the project asks more specifically:
1. Why have some
countries experienced civil wars in this period while most others have not?
2. What distinguishes
ethnic wars from those that have no ethnic component?
3. Why have civil
wars been fought in the name of some ethnic and communal groups, but not in
the vast majority of such groups?
4. Why are civil wars
so difficult to end? And what explains variation in the duration of civil
wars in this period?
Data for the Project
1. The Minorities at
Risk Dataset -- With the assistance of grants from the National Science
Foundation [NSF PROPOSAL] and the Carnegie
Foundation for International Peace [CARNEGIE
PROPOSAL], we have worked with the Maryland-based team that developed
the Minorities at Risk Dataset under the direction of Ted R. Gurr [MAR
SITE]. The unit of observation in this data set is
"Group/Country/Year" or "Group/Country/5-Year-Period".
The dataset allows us to ask what differentiates groups that have
been involved in civil wars from those that have not. The Stanford team has
worked to improve variables now included in the MAR dataset. We plan to
make public our own working version of the MAR (with added cases to address
selection bias problems) by September 2003.
2. The State/Year
Dataset - With the support of the Center for the Advanced Study in the
Behavior Sciences (thanks to a grant from William and Flora Hewlett
Foundation, and its William R. Hewlett Fellows Program), we have also
developed a list of all civil wars since 1945 that meet our definition, and
a data set incorporating information about these conflicts in which the
unit of analysis is the country-year. A small version of this data
set is now available in the "Replication Data" section.