Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Civil conflicts in the post World War II era have resulted in more than 16 million casualties across the globe, surpassing the loss of human life associated with interstate wars. Regions plagued by civil conflicts have experienced significant human casualties, substantial loss of productive resources, and considerable reduction in productivity, investment, and trade flows. Further, more than 20% of all nations experienced at least 10 years of civil conflict during the 1960–2006 time period. While the proportion of countries with active conflicts declined from 52 at its peak in the early 1990s, more than 30 countries were still experiencing one or more civil conflicts in 2008.  
This research advances the hypothesis that the emergence, prevalence, and recurrence of civil conflicts across the globe reflect the long shadow of prehistory. The analysis establishes that the genetic diversity of contemporary national populations, as determined predominantly in the course of the exodus of humans from Africa tens of thousands of years ago, has contributed to the frequency, incidence, and onset of both civil and ethnic conflicts over the last half century, accounting for the potentially confounding influence of a wide variety of factors, including traditional group-based measures of diversity such as ethnic and linguistic fractionalization and polarization.  
Genetic diversity may contribute to the emergence of civil conflicts through three direct channels. First, as argued by Ashraf and Galor (2013a), genetic diversity has had an adverse effect on trust and cooperation among members of society, and it can thereby reduce the sociocultural threshold for the onset of a conflict. Second, to the extent that diversity in preferences over public goods and political outcomes reflect diversity in genetic traits, social conflicts could be more prevalent in more diverse societies. Third, genetic diversity and its manifestation in heterogeneity in cognitive and physical traits may have contributed to inequality and, thus, to socio-political instability and the propensity for civil conflicts.


This research establishes that the emergence, prevalence, and recurrence of civil conflicts in the modern era reflect the long shadow of prehistory. Exploiting variations across national populations, it establishes that genetic diversity, as determined predominantly during the “out of Africa” migration of humans to the rest of the world tens of thousands of years ago, has contributed significantly to the incidence, onset, and frequency of both ethnic and overall civil conflicts in the last half century, accounting for a large set of potential correlates of civil conflict. Importantly, the positive reduced-form causal effect of genetic diversity on civil conflict survives a wide range of robustness checks. 
The influence of genetic diversity on civil conflict arguably reflects the adverse effect of genetic diversity on interpersonal trust and cooperation, the potential impact of diversity on income inequality, the potential association between diversity and divergence in preferences for public goods and redistributive policies, and the contribution of genetic diversity to the degree of fractionalization and polarization across ethnic and linguistic groups in the population. The analysis demonstrates that the reduced-form impact of genetic diversity on conflicts may, indeed, partly operate through interpersonal trust and ethnolinguistic fragmentation. Conclusive evidence on the mediating channels, however, requires independent exogenous sources of variation for each of the hypothesized proximate determinants in the diversity channel, the exploration of which is left for future research.
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And there are rumours that the Pope may be a Catholic.

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