Posted on 17 January 2018
It is generally accepted that Sub-Saharan African politics operates on the basis of ethnic favoritism: political leaders in office are assumed to disproportionally channel resources towards areas populated by their own ethnic group.
In a study with Roland Hodler from the University of St. Gallen, Paul Raschky from Monash University, and Michele Valsecchi from the University of Gothenburg, York economist Dr Giacomo De Luca looked at ethnic favoritism around the globe.
In the paper forthcoming in the Journal of Development Economics, they find that the effect is as strong outside Africa as it is in Africa itself.
For instance, Latin American generally white presidents tend to favour areas populated by European descendants and criollos, largely at the expenses of the indigenous population. Luminosity in indigenous areas, however, grew substantially after the election of indigenous leaders, like Evo Morales in Bolivia. These findings challenge the preconception that ethnic favoritism is mainly or even entirely a Sub-Saharan African phenomenon. Instead they suggest that ethnic favoritism holds globally.
The results further suggest that even though more democratic institutions have a tendency to reduce ethnic favoritism, this effect is surprisingly weak. In particular, a change from autocratic regimes to weak democracies does not reduce ethnic favoritism, whereas more mature democracies appear to curb the problem more successfully.