Cultural differences and economic incentives: An agent-based study of their impact on the emergence of regional autonomy movements

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Explanations of the emergence of regional autonomy movements - political organizations seeking to express sub-state affinities and interests - often highlight cultural differences and economic incentives as important reasons driving regional elites and local politicians to form such organization and explain the support regional autonomy movements receive. In this paper I employ a specialized agent-based computer simulation as a laboratory for 'thought experiments' to evaluate alternative theoretical expectations of the independent and combined consequences of regional economic and cultural circumstances on the likelihood of regional mobilization. The simulations suggest that pronounced cultural differences and strong economic incentives contribute to the emergence of three independent yet related aspects of autonomy mobilization: the emergence of political boundaries, minority support, and minority clustering. Furthermore, these experiment indicate that the impact of cultural differences on the emergence of political boundaries may be contingent on the strength of the economic incentives, and visa versa.

Original languageAmerican English
Issue number4
StatePublished - 31 Oct 2006


  • Agent-based modeling
  • Autonomy movements
  • Collective identity
  • Constructivism
  • Ethno-regional mobilization

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