Rural-urban divides have characterized recent violent insurgencies around the world, but there are important differences in dynamics: sometimes rural insurgents target cities and sometimes not; sometimes the combat frontier is blurry, other times neat. This paper attempts to construct a simple model of the rural-urban relationship in conflict to understand when predators will attempt to prey on cities, versus when they remain in the hinterlands. It takes Krugman’s (1991) core-periphery model as a starting point, in which there are just two regions, A and B (perhaps rural and urban), and two sectors. However, the model is modified such that the sectors are not “manufacturing” and “agriculture,” but rather production and predation, after Hirshleifer (1991), which can both occur in either or both regions. It finds that at middling levels of predation and/or high transportation costs, rural predatory actors will target cities. At high levels of predation and/or low transportation costs, however, multiple stable equilibria may arise, creating disincentives for rural predatory actors to target cities.
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