Monday, January 5, 2009

Rainfall and the probability of conflict

Antonio Ciccone argues that a 5% income shock (say by drought) raises the likelihood of civil conflict by 15 percentage points.

To see whether impoverishment causes the onset of civil conflict, I take a detailed look at data on rainfall levels in years before the outbreak of civil conflicts in Sub-Saharan African countries between 1980 and 2006. It is well known that living standards in these countries tend to be below trend in drought years and above trend when rainfall levels are above average. If civil conflict is triggered by sudden impoverishment, civil conflict onset in Sub-Saharan Africa should therefore have been more likely following drought years.

…If civil conflict onset is partly driven by sudden impoverishment, conflict outbreak in Sub-Saharan Africa should be more likely following below-average rainfall years. I find this to be the case. This result, combined with the effect of rainfall on income, allows me to estimate the effect of sudden impoverishment on the probability of civil conflict onset. My estimates indicate that a negative 5% income shock raises the likelihood of civil conflict by 15 percentage points.

More here

This is consistent with Fisman and Miguel’s argument that in Africa an income drop of 5% increases the risk of civil conflict in the following year to nearly 30%.

However, Simeon Djankov and Marta Reynal-Querol disagree by arguing that poverty does not have an effect on civil wars.

In Nepal, during the Maoists rebellion (1996-2006), the GDP growth rate averaged 4.1% which is barely different from the average growth rate of one decade before. However, head count poverty rate declined by more than 11 percentage points. This means that conflict did not substantially affect GDP growth rate. This can be explained by the rise in remittances inflow, even during peak time of conflict. This means declining poverty did not affect the likelihood of conflict in Nepal during 1996-2006. The effect of remittances far outweighed the negative effect of conflict on poverty and growth (though growth rate did plunged to –0.1% in 2001).

The figure below shows the increase in remittances:

Discouraging perspective about blogging

A very discouraging and one-size-fits-all perspective about blogging by students and junior economists!

it's still probably not advisable for graduate students or junior faculty to blog instead of focus on tenurable research ... for now

Blattman disagrees:

Let's relax. It's a harmless hobby that has mostly upside potential. Plus it's fun. My advice to junior faculty bloggers: keep the time investment low, keep it professional, and enjoy yourself.

I don’t waste time playing video games, watching TV serials and MTV, and getting hooked up with HBO movies. I attend all the classes and do all the assignments as well. And, I manage to write blogs, without it having an effect on academics. Unknown people from places I have never visited contact me through my blog (and about my blog). That is more than comforting for an undergrad econ major who is very interested in development economics and policy. It is definitely not a waste of time.

It is my hobby and I like doing it. I read a lot of blogs and news everyday. The stuff that I read and like is not found in textbooks. In fact, reading blogs (academic ones) enhances understanding of the econ theories and real world topics and sheds light on the reality aspect! Apart from expressing my views on the issues that I care of, I use blogging to compile information that I like and would use it in future research and articles. It is the best way to keep track of things that I really like and would not like to forget. In a way, it is an extended bibliography all the news and papers that I like and would like to refer to in the future!!

I guess every student should blog about the things that they really care about. At some point, I felt like blogging was squeezing my time really tight as I had to write papers and op-eds, and do HWs and work in the college. But, still I manage to find time to write one or two short pieces every day about economic issues that I like and would like to follow in the future.

Sometimes after expressing my feelings and arguments about certain economic topics, I feel relaxed. This is not entirely possible in a classroom. Moreover, it is hard to find friends in college who share the same ideas as I do and who are as passionate about development economics as I am! The best way to connect with people who share similar/dissimilar ideas and are passionate about the topics that I care about is through blogging. It is one of the best networking tools available for free to any one who has access to computer and internet!

One of my professors who is writing a recommendation for me for graduate school application (for Fall 2009) asked me to take off my blog address from my resume and not to talk about it in my personal essay. I disagreed! Other professors, however, encouraged me to keep blogging but not let it affect my studies. I agreed!

It is relaxing, satisfying and interesting. It is a hobby. There are no negative (serious ones) trade-offs in blogging. The opportunity cost of blogging is the next best alternative that I would have done if I had not blogged. But, the next best alternative is the time I would have used in reading new books and papers, or textbook readings or watched movies or TV. Since I always do the second one first and do not do the last one that often, I would have read new books if I had not blogged. But, I do read new books and papers that interest me and are usually beyond the requirements for the courses I take. I write summary (and analysis) of the books and papers and post them on my blog. More than costs, I see advantage here!!

That is  my note of dissent!

Financial crisis in one package

Global financial crisis 2008: All the discussions and links summarized here