Pathogens, Weather Shocks and Civil Conflicts


  • The authors thank two referees and the editor, Frederic Vermeulen, for very helpful comments and suggestions on how to improve the article, and Margherita Fort, Andrew Oswald, Torsten Persson, Dominic Rohner, Mathias Thoenig, David Weil and Fabrizio Zilibotti for very useful discussions. The authors are also grateful to Roland Benabou, Lukas Buchheim, Antonio Ciccone, David de la Croix, Grigory Egorov, Joan Maria Esteban, Elena Esposito, Bernd Fitzenberger, Eliana la Ferrara, Stelios Michalopoulos, Omer Moav, Gerard Padro-i-Miquel, Elias Papaioannou, Jean-Philippe Platteau, Adam Przeworski, Debraj Ray, Anthony Strittmatter and seminar participants at Universities of Bologna, Freiburg, Göttingen, Modena, the Barcelona Workshop ‘Towards Sustained Growth’, the Zurich Workshop on the Economics of Conflict, the Economic Fluctuations and Growth Group at the NBER Summer Institute, the Workshop on Conflict and Development in Namur, the Workshop on the determinants of Civil Conflicts in Madrid, the second LEPAS conference in Alicante, the ESEM-EEA in Oslo, the workshop on civil conflicts in Bergamo, SCALA – University of St. Gallen and Warwick for helpful comments. We are grateful to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) for supplying the data on natural disasters. Financial support from the European Union through the Career Integration Grant (618641 DISCON, Uwe Sunde) and Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (Matteo Cervellati) is gratefully acknowledged.


This article documents a statistically strong and quantitatively relevant effect of high exposure to infectious diseases on the risk of civil conflicts. The analysis exploits data on the presence and endemicity of multi-host vector-transmitted pathogens in a country, which is closely related to geo-climatic conditions due to the specific features of these pathogens. Exploiting within-country variation over time shows that this effect of pathogen exposure is significantly amplified by weather shocks. The results indicate health shocks and the outbreak of epidemics as a potential channel, while we find no evidence that the effect works through alternative channels like income, population dynamics, or institutions.