Since 2001, hundreds of academic studies have examined the “resource curse,” meaning the claim that natural resource wealth tends to perversely affect a country’s governance. There is now robust evidence that one type of mineral wealth, petroleum, has at least three harmful effects: it tends to make authoritarian regimes more durable, to increase certain types of corruption, and to help trigger violent conflict in low and middle income countries. Scholars have also made progress toward understanding the mechanisms that lead to these outcomes, and the conditions that make them more likely. This essay reviews the evidence behind these claims, the debates over their validity, and some of the unresolved puzzles for future research.
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