Local religious institutions and the impact of interethnic inequality on conflict

Xun Cao, Haiyan Duan, Chuyu Liu, Yingjie Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This article studies how local religious institutions mediate the effect of interethnic inequality on local violence. Focusing on the case of Xinjiang, China, we argue that local religious institutions decrease violence caused by local grievances. They do so in two ways: first, they provide local public goods; second, they provide an "information bridge" between the local population and the government, allowing for nonviolent management of potential discontent. We evaluate our claims with a countylevel database of incidents of ethnic violence in Xinjiang, China. We measure local interethnic inequalities using education indicators from census data and the strength of religious institutions using local mosque density.We find a conflict-dampening effect of religious institutions: a higher level of interethnic inequality is associated with increased ethnic violence only in areas with low and medium levels of mosque density. This article contributes to the literature of civil conflict, ethnic violence, and political and social unrest by revealing how local institutions mediate the effect of grievances on violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-781
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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