Civil War: A Review of Fifty Years of Research - Working Paper 166

Christopher Blattman
March 19, 2009

Civil conflict has afflicted more than half of all nations since 1960, and since then a fifth of all nations have experienced at least ten years of internal war. Civil conflict may have been the greatest impediment to economic growth of the last half-century. Yet, until recently, economists ignored the causes and consequences of civil war.

This paper reviews several decades of scholarship on civil war, focusing on the answers to key questions: Why do wars begin? Who fights? How are armed groups organized? How can we end and prevent internal war? Blattman and Miguel then survey the growing body of macroeconomic and microeconomic evidence to assess the impacts of civil war on economic growth worldwide. This paper seeks the full answers that have eluded previous studies and charts a path forward for scholars and policymakers alike.

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