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Meta-analysis of Commodity Prices and Conflict

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Description: Political scientists and economists have assembled a body of research assessing the causal relationship between commodity prices and conflict (Dube and Vargas 2013; Bazzi and Blattman 2014; Christensen 2018). Results have been mixed. On the one hand Bazzi and Blattman (2014) state definitively “Price shocks have no effect on new conflict, even large shocks in high-risk nations.” Yet, Dube and Vargas (2013), to take a prominent example, find that conflict increases in Colombia’s oil-producing municipalities as the international price for oil goes up. These findings could be due to theoretical choices about what types of conflicts or commodities to study, or design decisions about what cases to sample or the most credible empirical strategy. Both the outpouring of recent research and its conflicting findings motivate this meta-analysis. We believe there is now a critical mass of studies that address the question, how do commodity price changes affect civil conflict? Moreover, these studies share a concern with causal identification and employ methods that exploit exogenous, inter-temporal variation in food, fuel, or mineral prices. Despite these commonalities, these studies also differ in ways that might explain their divergent findings. We seek to define the theoretically relevant dimensions and specify when and how we’ll test for heterogeneity across studies.

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