How different are the correlates of onset and continuation of civil wars?

Michael Bleaney, Arcangelo Dimico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


It is very common to analyse the factors associated with the onset and continuation of civil wars entirely separately, as if there were likely to be no similarity between them. This is an overstatement of the theoretical position, which has established only that they may be different (i.e. less than perfectly correlated). The hypothesis that the explanatory variables are the same is not theoretically excludable and is empirically testable, both for individual variables and for combinations of them. Starting from this approach yields a rather different picture of the factors associated with the continuation of civil wars, because the relatively small sample size means that confidence intervals on individual coefficients are wide in this case. It is shown here that country size, mountainous terrain and (in most datasets) ethnic diversity seem significant for the continuation of civil wars, starting from the null hypothesis that variables affect onset and continuation probabilities identically, rather than entirely independently. One variable that affects onset and continuation significantly differently is anocracy, which we find to matter only for onset. Civil war is more likely if it occurred two years previously, as well as one year previously, which indicates that wars are more likely to restart after only one year of peace, and also more likely to stop in their first year. The combined model strengthens the result that ethnic diversity matters (it is consistently significant across datasets, whereas it is not when onset is analysed separately), although in the UCD/PRIO dataset it is significant only for onset. By contrast, if continuation is analysed independently, virtually nothing is significant except a pre-1991 dummy and a dummy for civil war two years previously.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Safety Research
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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