Linking Natural Resources and Civil Conflict: A Spatial Panel Regression Approach

Authors: Joshua Wayland*, University of Maryland - College Park
Topics: Political Geography, Natural Resources, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: civil conflict, natural resources, extractive industries, resource curse, spatial econometrics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Studio 1, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper contributes to the growing empirical literature investigating the mechanisms by which natural resource extraction is linked to the incidence of civil conflict. A mediation analysis was conducting using a series of spatial autoregressive random effects models applied to a panel dataset of 147 countries at five-year intervals from 1995 to 2010. Spatially explicit conflict events data aggregated to the country-year scale were regressed on variables measuring the value of economic rents from natural resources and economic dependence on resource rents in various sectors; mediating variables corresponding to possible casual pathways proposed in the existing literature; and potentially confounding factors. Strong evidence was found for a ‘resource curse’ mechanism, whereby dependence on rents in the petroleum and timber industries, in particular, tend to undermine institutional quality, increasing vulnerability to conflict. There is some evidence of a ‘resource conflict’ in the minerals sector, such that resource extraction contributes to conflict risk by increasing the intensity of horizontal inequalities between ethnic groups, measured using remotely-sensed nighttime lights data. Limited evidence of a ‘conflict resources’ effect of resource abundance on rebel group recruitment was observed for gemstones, including diamonds. Results also suggest that conflict is highly spatially dependent between neighboring countries, a finding that raises important methodological
implications for the study of intrastate conflict.

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