Refugee Flows, Ethnic Power Relations, and the Spread of Conflict

Daniel Krcmaric*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Why do some refugee flows cause conflict in the host state and others do not? Drawing on bargaining models of war, I argue refugees are especially likely to cause conflict when they alter the host state's ethnic balance of power. More specifically, I explain why multiple informational and commitment problems arise when refugee flows produce a rapid shift in relative power between ethnic groups. As an empirical strategy, I examine a unique controlled comparison made possible by the influx of Kosovar refugees into Albania and Macedonia in 1999 that eliminates over a dozen competing explanations for civil conflict. I then use process tracing to demonstrate how a change in relative power between ethnic groups fostered violence in Macedonia, whereas the preservation of the ethnic balance facilitated a peaceful refugee flow into Albania. This evidence, though tentative, indicates that a refugee flow's effect on the host state's ethnic balance of power can help explain whether the state experiences peace or conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-216
Number of pages35
JournalSecurity Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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