Comparative Politics Workshop

Predicting Large-Scale Violence in Criminal Wars (VIRTUAL)

In accordance with updated University guidelines on limiting public gatherings in light of COVID-19 concerns, this event will be offered virtually via Zoom. Those interested in attending should contact the Comparative Politics Field Representative Jake Turner for instructions on how to join by computer or phone.

Natan Skigin
Kellogg PhD Fellow, Political Science

Jacob Turner
Kellogg Doctoral Affiliate, Political Science and research affiliate of the Kellogg Institute's Notre Dame Violence and Transitional Justice Lab (V-TJLab).

Because criminal wars – the multiple armed conflicts between drug cartels and betweenthem and the state – can be even more deadly than civil wars, recent research has madeimportant progress in understanding their underlying causes. Yet even prominent studiesoften present poor predictive capacity. Four challenges make traditional statistical methods inappropriate to accurately classify out-of-sample instances of large-scale violence:stringent functional form assumptions, class-imbalanced data, multicollinearity and overfitting, and unspecified interactions between covariates. I address these drawbacks by applying machine learning techniques to fine-grained subnational data from Mexico—the country with the most lethal drug war worldwide. I show that ensemble methods offer superior accuracy in predicting local violence than any of the logistic regression models; that they compare favorably to those employed by political conflict scholars; and that risk factors differ from those stressed by studies aimed at causal inference. In particular, democratization and the decapitation of criminal groups have little predictive power,whereas population size, poverty levels, and state presence become reliable predictors of intercartel wars.

Comparative Politics Workshop 
The Comparative Politics Workshop is a graduate student-led forum geared towards presenting and discussing papers and research projects. During the academic semester, regular sessions are held at the Hesburgh Center. These meetings are open to everyone, particularly students, faculty and Kellogg Institute Visiting Fellows. Participants have the chance to present their work and receive valuable, constructive feedback from their colleagues. 
More information: Contact Comparative Politics Field Representative Jake Turner


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