Ethnic Favoritism: An Axiom of Politics?

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Development Economics
DateAccepted/In press - 21 Dec 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 26 Dec 2017
DatePublished (current) - May 2018
Pages (from-to)115-129
Early online date26/12/17
Original languageEnglish


We study ethnic favoritism in a global sample and rely on nighttime light intensity to capture a broad range of preferential policies targeted towards the political leaders’ ethnic homelands. We construct two panel data sets with several thousand ethnographic regions from around 140 multi-ethnic countries and annual observations from 1992 to 2013. We find robust evidence for ethnic favoritism: nighttime light becomes 7%–10% more intense in the political leaders’ ethnic homelands. We document that ethnic favoritism is a global phenomenon not restricted to Africa, poor countries, or autocracies. We also provide evidence that ethnic favoritism is partly motivated by electoral concerns and more prevalent in the presence of ethnic parties.

    Research areas

  • Elections, Ethnic favoritism, Ethnic parties, Institutions, Political leaders

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