State fragility has severe political implications. In the literature, fragile states have been referred to as "chaotic breeding grounds" for human rights violations, terrorism, violent extremism, crime, instability, and disease (Patrick 2011, 3-4). International organizations have also expressed concern regarding the potential of "fragile states" to disrupt collective security as threats such as transnational terrorism and human displacement from violent conflict have the potential to permeate borders (Patrick 2011, 5). This research project aims at extending our understanding of state fragility by examining three distinct dimensions of state fragility proposed in the literature: i) state authority, ii) state legitimacy, and iii) state capacity. I narrow the scope of these dimensions by focusing on 1) violent group grievance, 2) political legitimacy, and 3) state economic capacity, respectively. The first dimension, state authority, is related to a government's control of unlawful intrastate violence. The second dimension, legitimacy, is linked to the public acceptance of the right of an authority to govern law through its practice and influence (Weber 1958, 32-36; Gilley 2006, 48; Connolly 1984, 34). The third dimension, capacity, represents a state-society relationship characterized mainly by the state's ability to provide public goods and protection of citizens and residents from "harm" such as natural disasters and economic downfalls (Grävingholt, Ziaja, and Kreibaum 2012, 7). This dissertation examines each of these dimensions using quantitative analyses based on large-N datasets and cross-sectional longitudinal models to fill gaps in the literature on state fragility. In particular, I hypothesize 1) number of refugees increases the level of intrastate violent group grievance (state authority), 2) state human rights violations decreases popular support and thus public perceptions of state legitimacy, and 3) population constraints, such as food insecurity and disease increase economic decline and thus compromise the state's economic capacity. Internal violence, loss of legitimacy, and a weakened economy may increase levels of state fragility. Each of these three studies controls for alternative explanations and covers the time period between 2006 and 2014. The analysis results confirm the main hypotheses of this study and are expected to offer a more concise conceptual framework of state fragility, and better empirical understanding of potential contributors to state fragility.


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Graduation Date





Kinsey, Barbara


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences


Political Science

Degree Program

Security Studies









Release Date

August 2017

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)