Skip to main content

James Robinson, University of Chicago

Monday, April 30, 2018 -
12:30pm to 1:45pm
Mortara Center Conference Room, 3600 N St. NW, Washington, DC

Presenter: James Robinson
Paper: Social Structure and Conflict: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa 

Abstract: We test the long-standing hypothesis that ethnic groups that are organized around ‘segmentary lineages’ are more prone to conflict and civil war. Ethnographic accounts suggest that in segmentary lineage societies, which are characterized by strong allegiances to distant relatives, individuals are obligated to come to the defense of fellow lineage members when they become involved in conflicts. As a consequence, small disagreements often escalate to larger-scale conflicts involving many individuals. We test for this link between segmentary lineage and conflict across 145 African ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa. Using a number of estimation strategies, including an RD design at ethnic boundaries, we find that segmentary lineage societies experience more conflicts and ones that are longer in duration and larger in scale. We also find that the previously-documented relationship between adverse rainfall shocks and conflict within Africa is only found within segmentary lineage societies.


The International Economics Seminar series is presented jointly with the Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Economics Department of Georgetown University. This seminar is co-sponsored by the Current Research on Issues and Topics In Comparative Scholarship (CRITICS) series which is presented jointly by the Department of Government and the Mortara Center for International Studies at Georgetown University.