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Research Webinar | State Power and the Relationship Between Ethnic Diversity and Public Goods Provision

Monday March 30, 2020, from 13:30 to 14:30
Research seminar

Discussant: Per F. Andersson (Lund University)

An influential literature in political economy asserts a strong association between high levels of diversity and low levels of public service provision such as schooling or health care. This paper takes a first step to revisit and challenge this conventional wisdom, and the ahistorical perspective it implies, by replicating one of the most-cited works in support the diversity-development deficit thesis. Instead of treating ethnic diversity as exogenous, as Alesina et al. (2003) do, we argue that the association between high levels of ethnic diversity and low levels of public goods provision is spurious because both are shaped by long-term processes of state formation. To test this argument empirically we draw on recent advancements in the study of state capacity and incorporate measures of historical information capacity into Alesina et al.’s original analysis. The results provide support for our theoretical claims. Our findings are promising, but somewhat less conclusive when we use more alternative measures of historical state strength focused on the fiscal capacities of states.

Matthias vom Hau is an Associate Professor and Ramón y Cajal Researcher at IBEI. A sociologist by training, he has a PhD (2007) from Brown University and previously held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Manchester. He has also been a visiting researcher at Princeton University, the Freie Universität and the Humboldt Universität in Berlin, the Universidad de San Martín (UNSAM) and Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Buenos Aires, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP) in Lima. Matthias’ research is centrally concerned with the relationship between identity politics, institutions, and development, with a comparative-historical focus on Latin America. In 2019, Matthias vom Hau obtanied an European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant to carry out his research focusing on the relationship between ethnic diversity and public goods provision.

Guillem Amatller is research assistant of the project on ethnic politics and nationalism, coordinated by Matthias vom Hau. He holds a BA in Journalism and he worked in TV in La Sexta and other reginal TV broadcast companies. He holds a MA Research in Political Sciences (2017-18) and Politics and Public Administration (2018-2019), in a double Master degree jointly taught by the UPF and the University of Konstanz. He did a research internship at the University of Konstanz, where he contributed to research in perceptions of inequalities. He is enrolled in the Ph.D programme in Political and Social Sciences at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. In his dissertation he is analyzing new challenges for today's workers, in particular, those related to automation and globalization.

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