NOVAFRICA Seminar: Ethnofederalism and Ethnic Voting

On Wednesday, May 22nd, at 3:30pm (Lisbon time), in Room D 011 of the Carcavelos campus of Nova SBE, the NOVAFRICA Center welcomes Roland Hodler from University of St. Gallen to present his work on “Ethnofederalism and ethnic voting”

In many diverse developing countries, ethnic identities are highly salient and their role in national politics stands in the way of nation-building. In this paper, we examine whether and how reforming subnational political borders can reduce the salience of ethnicity in national politics. To do so, we introduce novel measures that capture the extent to which political boundaries are ethnofederal or cross-cutting from the perspective of individuals living in a particular place and identifying with a particular group. We then take advantage of the 2010 constitutional reform in Kenya, which divided the country’s eight provinces into 47 counties and devolved power to these new counties. Using event study and difference-in-difference designs, we find that ethnofederal reforms reduce ethnic voting in national elections. A key channel is that ethnofederalism “tranquilizes” locally powerful groups that control the provision of local public goods. Finally, we use our estimates to determine the optimal political borders that would reduce ethnic voting the most in Kenya.

Find out more about this seminar here.