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DySoC and NIMBioS are hosting a series of seminars on topics related to social complexity. Monthly seminars will be held at NIMBioS in Room 206, Claxton Building, 1122 Volunteer Blvd. Light refreshments will be served in Room 205 beginning 30 minutes before each talk. Faculty and students from across the UT community are welcome to join us.


C. Houle photo.

Speaker: Dr. Christian Houle, Political Science, Michigan State Univ.

Time/Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2020, 3:30 p.m.*

Location: Room 206, Claxton Building, 1122 Volunteer Blvd.

Topic: The political implications of ethnic inequality

Abstract: What are the political implications of ethnic inequality? While the previous literature has investigated the consequences of economic inequality on multiple political phenomena, such as political violence, voting behavior and democratic stability, relatively little attention has been given to the effect of ethnic inequality. Yet, in many instances, the key actors that drive these phenomena are ethnic groups. For example, many coups d'état are 'ethnic coups,' for which coup plotters rely on their co-ethnics as their main source of support both during the coup and afterward while establishing the new regime. Ethnic inequality is likely to be more relevant to such cases than the country's overall level of inequality. This presentation investigates the political implications of ethnic inequality with a particular emphasis on democratic stability, ethnic voting and ethnic coups d'´e;tat. I argue that inequality between ethnic groups magnifies the effect of ethnicity on politics, but that its effect is strongest when inequality within groups is low. I also develop two mechanisms to explain the relationship. First, when WGI is low, BGI increases the degree to which individuals identify with their ethnicity as opposed to their county. Second, at low levels of WGI, BGI increases the gap in policy preferences between members of different ethnic groups. After presenting the argument, I explain how I have used large-scale surveys, such as the Afrobarometer and the Demographic and Health Surveys, to develop measures of between-ethnic group inequality (BGI) and within-ethnic group inequality (WGI). The dataset covers about 100 countries worldwide. It includes both ethnic group-level and country-level indicators of BGI and WGI. I find strong support for my hypotheses: BGI destabilizes democracy, fosters ethnic voting and increase the likelihood of coups, but only when within-ethnic-group inequality (WGI) is low. I also find strong evidence in favor of both causal mechanisms. I conclude by discussing how ethnic inequality may affect other political phenomena. I also explain how the concepts of BGI and WGI can be extended to other social cleavages beyond ethnicity and inequality.

Christian Houle (PhD University of Rochester 2011) is Associate Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University. His research focuses on democracy, regime transition, political instability, inequality and redistribution. His articles have appeared in a number of journals, including World Politics, International Organization, Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Journal of Peace Research.

*Join us for refreshments at 3 p.m.

Seminar Flyer (pdf)

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This seminar was streamed live. Live-streamed seminars are archived for later viewing on NIMBIoS' YouTube channel. Watch seminar online.

For more information about this and other NIMBioS Seminars, visit http://www.nimbios.org/announcements/seminars.



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NIMBioS is supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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