Taking it Personally: the Effect of Ethnic Attachment on Preferences for Regionalism



This article presents three related findings on regional decentralization. We use an original dataset collected in Uganda to establish, for the first time in a developing country context, that individuals have meaningful preferences over the degree of regional decentralization they desire, ranging from centralism to secessionism. Second, multilevel models suggest that a small share of this variation is explained at the district and ethnic group levels. The preference for regional decentralization monotonically increases with an ethnic group or a district’s average ethnic attachment. However, the relationship with an ethnic group or district’s income is U-shaped: both the richest and the poorest groups desire more regionalism, reconciling interest-based and identity-based explanations for regionalism. Finally, we show that higher individual ethnic attachment increases preferences for regionalism using fixed effects and a new matching method.


Developing countries African subnational politics Ethnicity Decentralization Federalism 



For advice and comments, we thank Scott Abramson, Mark Beissinger, Michael Donnelly, Evan Lieberman, Rebecca Littman, John Londregan, Brandon Miller de la Cuesta, Betsy Levy Paluck and Marc Ratkovic. Two anonymous reviewers provided very detailed and valuable comments. We also thank seminar participants at Princeton University and at the annual meetings of the American Political Science Association and the Midwest Political Science Association. Ricart-Huguet is grateful to Helen Milner, Daniel Nielson and Mike Findley for their support during fieldwork.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.Department of International DevelopmentLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK

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