Working Papers

Blank, Meredith, Mark Dincecco and Yuri M. Zhukov. “Political Regime Type and Warfare: Evidence from 600 Years of European History.” Working paper, 2017 (under review).
Abstract | PDF

This paper presents new evidence that, historically, the relationship between political regime type and warfare was different than it is today. Using a novel database of interstate conflict in Europe between 1200 and 1800, we perform the first quantitative analysis of domestic political institutions and warfare across the pre-modern era. We find that early parliamentary regimes – the institutional predecessors of modern democracies – were disproportionately more likely to experience armed conflict than their absolutist counterparts. Our empirical strategy makes use of two complementary approaches: a standard dyadic analysis of conflict initiation, and a dynamic network analysis that accounts for interdependence between dyads. These analyses show that early parliamentary regimes fought in significantly more wars than absolutist monarchies, both against one another and overall. Such regimes, we argue, had a relatively large capacity to make war, but, unlike modern democracies, not enough institutional constraints to prevent it.

Introducing xSub: A New Portal for Cross-National Data on Sub-National Violence
Zhukov, Yuri M., Christian Davenport and Nadiya Kostyuk. “Introducing xSub: A New Portal for Cross-National Data on Sub-National Violence.” Working paper, 2017.
Abstract | PDF | Appendix

Researchers today have access to an unprecedented amount of geo-referenced, disaggregated data on political conflict and violence. Unfortunately, these new data sources lack a consistent event typology and use disparate units of analysis. As a result, findings are rarely comparable across studies, and we are unable to answer basic questions like “what does conflict A tell us about conflict B”? With this in mind, we introduce xSub — a unified framework and repository for micro-level event data on armed conflict and political violence. The goal of xSub is to reduce the barriers to comparative sub-national research, and empower researchers to quickly construct custom, analysis-ready datasets. Currently, xSub features 337 subnational datasets on political violence and protests in 139 countries, from 21 sources, including both large data collections and data from individual scholars. To facilitate comparisons across countries and sources, xSub organizes these data into consistent event categories and actors, and aggregates them into common units of analysis, by space (country, province, district, PRIO grid cell, electoral constituency) and time (year, month, week). This article lays outs the logic of the project and illustrates an example of its use, by investigating the impact of repression on dissent across 149 subnational datasets.

Repression Works (just not in moderation)
Zhukov, Yuri M. “Repression Works (just not in moderation).” Working paper, 2017.
Abstract | PDF

Why does government violence deter political challengers in one context, but inflame them in the next? This paper argues that repression increases opposition activity at low and moderate levels, but decreases it in the extreme. There is a threshold level of violence, where the opposition becomes unable to recruit new members, and the rebellion unravels — even if the government is responsible for more civilian suffering overall. I show this result theoretically, with a mathematical model of coercion and popular support, and empirically, with micro-level data from Chechnya and a meta-analysis of sub-national conflict dynamics in 145 countries. The data suggest that such a threshold exists, but the level of violence needed to reach it varies. Many governments, thankfully, are unable or unwilling to go that far. I explore conditions under which this threshold may be higher or lower, and highlight a fundamental trade-off between reducing government violence and preserving civil liberties.

How Selective Reporting Shapes Inferences about Conflict
Zhukov, Yuri M. and Matthew A. Baum. “How Selective Reporting Shapes Inferences about Conflict.” Working paper, 2017.
Abstract | PDF

By systematically under- or over-reporting violence by different actors, media organizations convey potentially contradictory information about how a conflict is likely to unfold, and whether outside intervention is necessary to stop it. These reporting biases affect not only statistical inference, but also public knowledge and policy preferences. Using new event data on the ongoing armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, we perform parallel analyses of data from
Ukrainian, rebel, Russian and third party sources. We show that actor-specific reporting bias can yield estimates with vastly different implications for conflict resolution: Ukrainian sources predict frequent unilateral escalation by rebels, pro-Russian rebel sources predict unilateral escalation by government troops, while outside sources predict that transgressions by either side should be quite rare. Experimental evidence suggests that news consumers tend to support intervention against whichever side is shown to be committing the violence. We argue that these kinds of reporting biases can potentially make conflicts more difficult to resolve — hardening attitudes against negotiated settlement, and in favor of military action.