Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ted Miguel on Drought, Aid, and Civil War in Africa

Tyler Cowen knows more about what Ted Miguel--in the opposite corner of the sixth floor of Berkeley's Evans Hall--is doing than I do:

Marginal Revolution: Use foreign aid to prevent catastrophe?: Use foreign aid to prevent catastrophe?

Our research find that a 5% drop in per capita income due to drought increases the likelihod of a civil conflict [in African countries] in the following year by nearly one half. That's a very large effect.

...Currently, most foreign aid focuses on long-term investments in infrastructure of education but does little to deal with such short-term triggers of violence as drought or falling export commodity prices. But our research suggests a larger share of aid should aim to dampen the sharp falls in income that actually generate recruits for rebel movements.

That is from Edward Miguel, p.14 of Business Week, edition of 18 September. My main worry is that these are the societies where foreign aid is least likely to find its way into the hands of the poor. In fact the distribution of the aid might, at the margin, make the plum of political power all the more appealing to would-be rebels. Keep in mind that many of these civil wars are led by elites, not the starving poor. (So what is the mechanism linking drought and conflict? Focality?)

What is the increase from? From a 2% chance of civil war next year to 3%?

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