377/2018 Thiemo Fetzer and Stephan Kyburz
Can institutionalized transfers of resource rents be a source of civil conflict? Are cohesive institutions better in managing distributive conflicts? We study these questions exploiting exogenous variation in revenue disbursements to local governments together with new data on local democratic institutions in Nigeria. We make three contributions. First, we document the existence of a strong link between rents and conflict far away from the location of the actual resource. Second, we show that distributive conflict is highly organized involving political militias and concentrated in the extent to which local governments are non-cohesive. Third, we show that democratic practice in form having elected local governments significantly weakens the causal link between rents and political violence. We document that elections (vis-a-vis appointments), by producing more cohesive institutions, vastly limit the extent to which distributional conflict between groups breaks out following shocks to the available rents. Throughout, we confirm these findings using individual level survey data.