Over the past five years numerous cross-national statistical studies have been conducted on the causes of civil war. The most influential studies have been those by Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler.Their work has been widely cited in international reports on security and stability. This paper offers a critique of their work, arguing that their research is filled with empirical, methodological and theoretical problems that lead to unreliable results and unjustified conclusions. Their most prominent finding - that dependence on natural resources heightens a country's risk of war because it affords rebels an opportunity for extortion - is not based on any evidence of rebel behaviour; it is an inference drawn from a correlation between the onset of civil war and the ratio of primary commodity exports to GDP. To borrow a felicitous phrase from Keynes, the Collier and Hoeffler model suffers from 'a frightful inadequacy of most of the statistics'.
Nathan, L., Discussion Paper No.11. The Frightful Inadequacy of Most of the Statistics: A critique of Collier and Hoeffler on Causes of Civil War, 2005, London, UK; Crisis States Research Centre, 29 pp.