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Ethnic Stratification and the Equilibrium of Inequality: Ethnic Conflict in Postcolonial States

  • Manuel Vogt


Why are ethnic movements more likely to turn violent in some multiethnic countries than in others? Focusing on the long-term legacies of European overseas colonialism, I investigate the effect of distinct ethnic cleavage types on the consequences of ethnic group mobilization. The colonial settler states and other stratified multiethnic states are characterized by an equilibrium of inequality in which historically marginalized groups lack both the organizational strength and the opportunities for armed rebellion. In contrast, ethnic mobilization in the decolonized states and other segmented multiethnic societies is more likely to trigger violent conflict. I test these arguments in a global quantitative study from 1946 to 2009, using new data on the linguistic and religious segmentation of ethnic groups. The results confirm that the extremely unequal colonial settler states experience less violence than the decolonized states and other multiethnic countries. Ethnic conflict is generally more likely the more segmented and less hierarchically structured multiethnic states are. Specifically, stable between-group hierarchies reduce the risk of governmental conflict, whereas segmentation affects secessionist violence.



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