The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper explores the relationship between the degree of division or fractionalization of a country’s population (along ethnolinguistic and religious dimensions) and both political instability and government consumption, using a neoclassical growth model. The principal idea is that greater fractionalization, proxying for the degree of conflict in society, leads to political instability, which in turn leads to higher government consumption aimed at placating the opposition. There is also a feedback mechanism whereby the higher consumption leads to less instability as government consumption reduces the risk of losing office. Empirical evidence based on panel estimation supports this hypothesis.