Monday, November 4, 2019

New Projects on Bahrain and Beyond

It's an understatement to say that it's been a long time since I've updated Religion and Politics in Bahrain. This is mostly due to the necessities of academia, where blog posting is not viewed as a good use of one's time. Actually, it's worse than that: blog posting is viewed as a quite bad use of one's time. And perhaps it is. I also sometimes comfort myself with the observation that the lack of activity here at least reflects the lack of real change in Bahraini politics over the past few years, but that is probably just a mental excuse. Indeed, some interesting developments continue.

However the case, since it's very unlikely that I'll find the time to revive this blog anytime soon, I wanted to alert those visitors who still trickle in to a new personal academic website I've created to track my ongoing research and publications. Not so many are related to Bahrain any longer, at least directly, but some are.

One recent project that is focused on Bahrain is a chapter in a 2019 RAND volume examining communal resilience to sectarianism. The chapter examines the effect of sectarian-based geographical segregation on government service provision and economic welfare in Bahrain. It relies on original survey data collected in the country in early 2017. The data demonstrate that Bahrainis' likelihood of benefiting from public goods is strongly influenced by the sectarian demographic character of their neighborhood. Shi'a living in Shi'a-dominated districts are far less likely than Shi'a elsewhere to be employed by the government, and also have lower average household income compared to Shi'a in mixed or Sunni-majority districts. The reverse is true for Sunnis: living in a homogeneous (co-sectarian) neighborhood vastly increases the chance of having a public sector job and being well-off economically. The results give strong support to the idea that the Bahraini state uses the sectarian character of a neighborhood as an important basis for distributional decisions.

Such geographical-cum-sectarian disparities in goods provision are perhaps well-known to citizens and scholars of Bahrain. But the paper is unique in being able to use public opinion data to demonstrate this fact empirically.

Also, the data offer an updated estimate of Bahrain's sectarian balance compared to the 2009 data from my doctoral thesis. In fact, the ratio remains statistically unchanged from 2009, with Shi'a respondents accounting for 56.6% of the 2017 random sample. This gives a 95% confidence interval of between 52.1% and 61.2% for the country's Shi'a population in early 2017, compared to 52.9%-62.3% in 2009. These two very similar estimates should give added confidence in their accuracy.

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