Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2020

Department 1

Political Science


Why have many researchers historically relied on combined measures and explanations for the scholarship on ethnic polarization and ethnic fractionalization? In this article, I argue for the adoption of a new research mechanism that differentiates between both variables in order to test them independently vis à vis their relationships to civil war severity. The presence of a more ethnically polarized state seems to make it more difficult for the opposition groups to coordinate and to mount an effective attack/opposition against the government, thus limiting overall casualties. This also increases the difficultly for the government forces to identify the group(s) that constitute the primary rebellious forces and to attack them. I find empirical support for my expectations: when analyzing ethnic polarization with a measurement independent from ethnic fractionalization, it presents an increasingly statistically significant relationship to civil war severity. I utilize Lacina’s (2006) primary dataset to test the effect that ethnic polarization has on civil war severity, and find that there is a weakly significant and negative relationship between the two variables. My findings suggest the increased importance of popularizing separate future mechanisms in order to better define and measure ethnic polarization and ethnic fractionalization.


Written for POL 351: The Political Economy of Armed Conflict.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.