This article draws on data from over 35,000 respondents in 22 public opinion surveys in 10 countries and finds strong evidence that ethnic identities in Africa are strengthened by exposure to political competition. In particular, for every month closer their country is to a competitive presidential election, survey respondents are 1.8 percentage points more likely to identify in ethnic terms. Using an innovative multinomial logit empirical methodology, we find that these shifts are accompanied by a corresponding reduction in the salience of occupational and class identities. Our findings lend support to situational theories of social identification and are consistent with the view that ethnic identities matter in Africa for instrumental reasons: because they are useful in the competition for political power.
Benn Eifert, Edward Miguel, and Daniel N. Posner
African DevelopmentPolitical Economy and Conflict
Ethnic Diversity and Poverty ReductionBook ChapterAfrican DevelopmentPolitical Economy and Conflict2006
Ethnic Diversity, Social Sanctions, and Public Goods in KenyaPublished PaperAfrican DevelopmentPolitical Economy and Conflict2005
Political Competition and Ethnic Identification in Africa (Book Chapter)Book ChapterAfrican DevelopmentPolitical Economy and Conflict2013
The Value of Democracy: Evidence from Road Building in KenyaPublished PaperAfrican DevelopmentPolitical Economy and Conflict2015
Tribe or Nation? Nation Building and Public Goods in Kenya Versus TanzaniaPublished PaperAfrican DevelopmentHealthEducation and Human CapitalPolitical Economy and Conflict2004