Soil of Politics
(with Sondre Solstad)
Resources matter in political competition, and control of fertile land especially so. In many countries, ethnic groups are the building blocks of political coalitions. We combine these two insights, and argue that an ethnic groups' control of fertile land --- which we call "soil power" --- shape their bargaining power in national politics. This in turn shapes national political outcomes. We use satellite and soil data to calculate the cumulative agricultural potential of ethnic homelands in several common datasets. We demonstrate that soil power predicts a groups' national power and its risk of discrimination, beyond that which can be explained by population share. Using maps of ethnic group homelands as they were in the 1880s and theory from the literature on ethno-linguistic fractionalization, we also evidence and formalize a new deleterious legacy of colonialism: the creation of countries in which the distribution of land resources made governance extremely hard.