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Coalitions not Conflicts: Ethnicity, Political Institutions, and Expenditure in Africa

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Scholars blame high levels of ethnic heterogeneity for many social and political ills, including poor economic growth, corruption, and policy gridlock. But it can be argued that, in seeking reelection, politicians will join multiethnic coalitions to pass policies in this endeavor. Further, government expenditure increases with coalition size, as each politician seeks policies that benefit his or her own constituents. Subnational data from Zambia, the use of which helps control for country-level factors hindering standard cross-national studies of fiscal politics, indicate that government spending increases with ethnic heterogeneity. This evidence challenges studies which ignore the incentives generated by political institutions and claim that ethnicity leads directly to undesirable outcomes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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