Violence against Rich Ethnic Minorities: A Theory of Instrumental Scapegoating

By: Yann Bramoullé (Aix-Marseille University (Aix-Marseille School of Economics), CNRS & EHESS) ; Pauline Morault (Aix-Marseille University (Aix-Marseille School of Economics), CNRS& EHESS)
In many parts of the developing world, ethnic minorities play a central role in the economy. Examples include Chinese throughout Southeast Asia, Indians in East Africa and Lebanese in West Africa. These rich minorities are often subject to popular violence and extortion, and are treated ambiguously by local politicians. We develop a formal framework to analyze the interactions between a rent-seeking political elite, an economically dominant ethnic minority and a poor majority. We find that the local elite can always make use of the presence of the rich minority to maintain its hold on power. When the threat of violence is high, the government may change its economic policies strategically to sacrifice the minority to popular resentment. We analyze the conditions under which such instrumental scapegoating emerges, and the forms it takes. We then introduce some social integration between both elites capturing, for instance, mixed marriages and shared education. Social integration reduces violence and yields qualitative changes in economic policies. Overall, our results help explain documented patterns of violence and segregation
Keywords: elites, popular violence, ethnic minority, scapegoat
URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:aim:wpaimx:1626&r=ltv

 

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