Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science


Political Science

First Advisor

Mark Nieman


This paper evaluates the effect of three key mechanisms—state capacity, ethnic grievances, and third party assistance—on the probability of civil war onset from 1960 to 1999. Using cross-national data logistic analysis for 160 countries, I found that states with poor governance quality are more prone to civil conflict. This hypothesis is tested and confirmed using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and tax ratio as two indicators for the state’s administrative quality. Second, ethnic grievances are measured by the degree of economic and political disparities across ethnic groups (horizontal inequality). In contrast, to several recent influential civil war researches, namely Collier and Hoeffler (2004), and Fearon and Latin (2003), I show that political and economic inequalities between groups actually increase the probability of civil conflict. Countries with large groups face economic and political discrimination along ethnic lines are more likely to experience internal conflict, as oppose to countries do not discriminate against minorities. Lastly, investigating the relationship between third party assistance and the risk of civil conflict onset, I use data for U.S. economic and military aid to foreign countries. However, the data failed to reach statistical significance. This may be due to lack of data for other third parties like the former USSR which actively provided economic and military aid to various countries opposing US interests during the Cold War. In the final section, I present a case study of the civil war in Iraq and Syria, which created environment for ISIS to emerge. The case study provides a brief history about the origin of the group from 2010-14, but the primary goal is to provide an explanatory argument of how each of the three mechanisms played out in Iraq and Syria’s civil wars respectively.


Copyright Owner

Goran Kamal Hassan



File Format


File Size

73 pages