The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions

90 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2018 Last revised: 18 Mar 2019

See all articles by Samuel Bazzi

Samuel Bazzi

Boston University - Department of Economics

Matthew Gudgeon

Boston University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2018


This paper argues that redrawing subnational political boundaries can transform ethnic divisions. We use a policy experiment in Indonesia to show how the effects of ethnic diversity on conflict depend on the political units within which groups are organized. Redistricting along group lines can reduce conflict, but these gains are undone or even reversed when the new borders introduce greater polarization. These adverse effects of polarization are further amplified around majoritarian elections, consistent with strong incentives to capture new local governments in settings with ethnic favoritism.

Overall, our findings illustrate the promise and pitfalls of redistricting in diverse countries.

Keywords: conflict, Decentralization, Ethnic Divisions, Polarization, Political Boundaries

JEL Classification: D72, D74, H41, H77, O13, Q34

Suggested Citation

Bazzi, Samuel and Gudgeon, Matthew, The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions (January 2018). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12552, Available at SSRN:

Samuel Bazzi (Contact Author)

Boston University - Department of Economics ( email )

270 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Matthew Gudgeon

Boston University ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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