With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
One of the most influential ideas in the study of political instability is that income shocks provoke conflict. “State prize” theories argue that higher revenues increase incentives to capture the state.“Opportunity cost” theories argue that higher prices decrease individual incen-tives to revolt. Both mechanisms are central to leading models of state development and collapse. But are they wellfounded?We examine the effects of exogenous commodity price shocks on conflict and coups, and find little evidence in favor of either theory. Evidence runs especially against the state as prize. We do find weak evidence that the intensity of fighting falls as prices rise—results more consistent with the idea that revenues augment state capacity, not prize-seeking or opportunity cost. Nevertheless,the evidence for any of these income-conflict mecha-nisms is weak at best. We argue that errors andpublication bias have likely distorted the theoret-ical and empirical literature on political instability.
Data disclosure: The data and code underlying the analysis in this paper are available as a data set.