Friday, December 23, 2011

Malthus visits Rwanda

Rwanda has always struck me as the perfect example of a Malthusian economy. A dense population where land is systematically divided up among descendants, leading to tiny lots that are barely sufficient for survival.Lots are so small that new capital for its exploitation is not relevant, and no technological improvements have any significant bite. In the end the land can only support a population at the edge of famine.

Marijke Verpoorten brings an intriguing connection between the Malthusian theory as applied to Rwanda and the genocide of 1994. Using regional data, she finds that the areas where there was the most urgent population pressure (through density or growth) were also the ones with the most killings. In a way, society was taking care of a business nature and famine could have.


z-list economist said...

Nothing new here. Jared Diamond (2005) had an entire chapter dedicated to investigating this hypothesis, and came to the exact same conclusion, i.e. the areas with the highest population densities had the highest number of killings. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this book/chapter should be cited. This paper is not as novel as the author makes out. Possibly one to file under 'bad research'?

Anonymous said...

Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

Felix Bethke said...

I like Jared Diamond's work, especially "Collapse", but I think it does not make Marijke's paper obsolete.

As far as I know, the population densitiy explanation for the genocide was well known among scholars of conflict studies even before Diammond wrote his book.

However, nobody has ever tested it empirically with statistical methods. This is I think Marijke's novel contribution.