Food Prices and Food Riots: How High — Not Volatile — Food Prices Cause Food Riots

My article “Rising Food Prices, Food Price Volatility, and Social Unrest” was finally made available online (click here if you don’t have an institutional subscription and would like an ungated copy identical to the published version) last week by the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, roughly three years after I wrote the first draft of it. Here is the abstract:

Can food prices cause social unrest? Throughout history, riots have frequently broken out, ostensibly as a consequence of high food prices. Using monthly data at the international level, this article studies the impact of food prices – food price levels as well as food price volatility – on social unrest. Because food prices and social unrest are jointly determined, data on natural disasters are used to identify the causal relationship flowing from food price levels to social unrest. Results indicate that for the period 1990–2011, food price increases have led to increases in social unrest, whereas food price volatility has not been associated with increases in social unrest. These results are robust to alternative definitions of social unrest, to using real or nominal prices, to using commodity-specific price indices instead of aggregated price indices, to alternative definitions of the instrumental variable, to alternative definitions of volatility, and to controlling for non-food-related social unrest.

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Links: Faculty “Diversity,” a Cookbook for SNAP Recipients, GMO Wheat Genetics, 40 Maps of Food in the US

Can Development Projects Fuel Conflict?

Yes, they can, at least in places where development projects can undermine support for an insurrection. So say Crost et al. in an article (ungated earlier copy here) in the most recent issue of the American Economic Review:

We estimate the causal effect of a large development program on conflict in the Philippines through a regression discontinuity design that exploits an arbitrary poverty threshold used to assign eligibility for the program. We find that barely eligible municipalities experienced a large increase in conflict casualties compared to barely ineligible ones. This increase is mostly due to insurgent-initiated incidents in the early stages of program preparation. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that insurgents try to sabotage the program because its success would weaken their support in the population.

A Listicle of All My “Contributing to Public Goods” Listicles


I recently re-read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, and I was struck at just how many coordination failures he resolved in his lifetime in order to provide public goods. Off the top of my head, he founded a public library, he founded a university,  he created a public service in charge of extinguishing fires, organized street cleaning and garbage collection, etc. all in his native Philadelphia.

Reading about Franklin’s life and public service reminded me that he had been my initial inspiration for my “Contributing to Public Goods” series of posts. And since some of you might have missed most of those posts, I thought I would put them all in one place for now: Continue reading