The Persistent Effect of Exposure to Civil Conflict on Political Beliefs and Participation: Evidence from the Peruvian Civil War

This post is part of a series showcasing Barcelona GSE master projects by students in the Class of 2015.

photo“No teníamos culpa de nada… ¿o sí?” © 2006 Mauricio Delgado Castillo


Editor’s note: This post is part of a series showcasing Barcelona GSE master projects by students in the Class of 2015. The project is a required component of every master program.


Authors: 
Benjamin Anderson and Ramiro Antonio Burga

Master’s Program:
Economics of Public Policy

Paper Abstract:

This paper provides empirical evidence of the persistent effects of exposure to civil conflict on political beliefs and participation. We exploit the variation in geographic incidence of conflict and birth cohorts to identify the long-term effects of exposure to violence on belief in democracy, trust in institutions, opinions in support of civil rights, voting turnout and casting of blank ballots, and participation in civic organizations. Conditional on being exposed to violence, the average person exposed to violence during certain sensitive stages of life still holds slightly more negative opinions about the value of democracy and are less likely to participate in civic / political organizations in the long-run.

Presentation Slides:

[slideshare id=53321203&doc=civil-conflict-political-beliefs-peru-150929115151-lva1-app6892]

About the paper

Motivation:

Political preferences heavily dictate the role of the government, the policy making processes that emerge, and potentially even the institutional framework, itself (Besley and Case, 2003; Aghion et al., 2004). Furthermore, consequential effects of various forms of political institutions is a primary focus of Political Economy, and justifiably so, for the array of welfare implications encompassed within, including, economic growth, inequality, health outcomes, and many others (Acemoglu et al., 2001; 2002). In countries where citizens have been exposed to violence during sensitive periods of life, it may be more difficult for governments to gain trust and build support for democratic processes and good institutions.

Pathways/mechanisms:

There are many logical pathways which one could speculate that civil conflict might affect citizens’ political beliefs; perhaps the most conspicuous of which being trust. Lack of protection, safety, and government accountability could lead to a decrease or lack of trust in the government, while exposure to violence, fear tactics, and other criminal behavior could result in distrust toward other members of society (Jaeger and Paserman, 2008; Rohner et al., 2013). Secondarily, residual effects of civil conflict in the form of fear, in particular for safety, could dissuade citizens from various forms of political participation (Salamon and Evera, 1973).

Summary of findings:

We examine the effect of exposure to conflict during sensitive developmental periods of life on persistent changes to various measures of political beliefs and participation. The results show that the average person exposed to conflict during the age range 13 to 17 will have slightly more negative opinions about democracy well over a decade after the conclusion of the violence. Very minor long-term effects are also present for participation in civic organizations. Our results show that the average person exposed to conflict during the age range of 7 to 12 has a decreased likelihood of participating in civic organizations of approximately 3% to 6% for each additional year that the individual experienced violence in his/her district during this period of life. While these effects are economically small, it is notable that any long-term effect is detected given the likely presence of strong attenuation bias as discussed in our threats to identification. We find that the most sensitive stages of life for the formation of political beliefs, with respect to exposure to conflict, are the pre-teen and teenage years. Contrary to the effects of violence exposure on human capital and labor market outcomes, we do not find effects occurring at the earliest life stages.

Inferences:

  1. The detection of effects in both belief and action variables not only helps to validate one another, but it also suggests that beliefs indeed translate to actions. This connection provides some evidence that changes in political perception also corresponds with political behavioral change.
  2. Even though the effects we detect are relatively small, they might have been severe during and shortly following the civil war.
  3. Although we are unable to further analyze heterogeneous effects, the effects could be quite large for certain individuals who may have been exposed to more extreme amounts or types of violent acts.

Policy Implications:

Knowledge of the size and temporality of these consequential effects of civil conflict on political beliefs and participation as well as mechanisms which drive these changes would be invaluable. This would allow policy makers to develop targeted strategies to help combat the destructive effects of violence on citizens’ political beliefs and behavior that could undermine the healthy growth, development, and stability of society.

On the experience:

The thesis was almost certainly the most fun and rewarding assignment of the year, despite the imposing time constraint. Having received rigorous training to acquire the tools needed for such a project, and having discovered and nurtured our own interests via exposure to a multitude of prominent literature in various applied topics throughout the year, it was exciting to unleash the knowledge we had gained and apply some of our empirical techniques to a new and interesting research question of our own.

Throughout the program, but especially during the thesis, we were fortunate to have access to the knowledge and support of professors. Aided by some enthusiastic and accomplished mentors, we evolved our expectations of ourselves. Their expertise in areas related to those of our paper – conflicts, violence and political economy – optimized the quality of feedback and constructive critique we received in the process. The final presentation to our directors, professors and peers was another valuable component. It served as a welcome challenge that exercised essential communication skills, not only for conveying complex ideas to an audience, but adroitly and favorably reacting to questions and criticism.

The feeling of accomplishment derived from materializing a quality piece of empirical work is great motivation to build on for the future. Just one year ago, not only would this project have been impossible to execute, even the vision of it coming together was unfathomable. By the final term, we knew that we were prepared; now, we carry forth these tools, creativity, and confidence in our abilities.

On working with a coauthor:

At the outset, the thought of working with a coauthor for the thesis did not sound ideal, but ultimately, it had many advantages. It offered another opportunity to gain from the international and cultural diversity of one another and to develop these working and personal relationships; it was an invaluable intangible experience for which we will be forever thankful. Our complimentary skillsets and working styles prevented this beast from ever becoming a burden. We are proud of what we were able to achieve given the constraints, and ended up with a final project that far surpassed anything that we could have done independently within the same amount of time.

Attack when the world is not watching? International media and conflicts

IacopoBy Iacopo Tonini ’15, current student in the International Trade, Finance and Development program. Follow him on Twitter @iacopotoni


 

On April 8th Professor Ruben Durante (Sciences Po) visited the Institute of Political Economy and Governance (IPEG) to present his latest research paper, “Attack when the world is not watching? International Media and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” (coauthored with Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, Paris School of Economics). The title clearly suggests that the article relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however the research aims at demonstrating a more general result. Indeed, the objective is establishing a causal relationship between unpopular policy choices and news with a “highly relevant” media content.

Israel-Palestine
Israeli military strike in Gaza City on July 29, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ASHRAF AMRA

“I have noticed that my older daughter steals her brother’s toys when we (the parents) are not home”, the Italian professor stated cheerfully while explaining where he had initially gotten the idea for the research. The process seems to make sense. In the case of an influential conflict such as the Israeli-Palestinian one, it could well be the case that the factions involved wait for the world to look away before coordinating and ultimately launching a brutal offensive – or interrupting a ceasefire after a period of peace.

Beyond the intuitive example extrapolated from the professor’s family life, more concrete cases are the following. On the very same day in which the Italian National team qualified for the World Cup final (July 13, 1994), the Berlusconi government passed and approved an emergency decree – recently renamed the “save-the-thieves” decree– that allowed several politicians accused of corruption to avoid imprisonment, and keep working unscathed. Another example is the start of the Russian military operations to invade Georgia. The Russian army received the order to attack during the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Finally, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, while at the stadium Mineirão in Belo Horizonte the German national team was inflicting a historical débâcle to the Seleçao, Israel launched the operation “Protective Edgeagainst Gaza.

La Stampa
News item about an unpopular policy appears below news about the World Cup qualifier in this Italian newspaper.

“Governments are accountable to the extent that the public is informed about their actions. Mass media ensure accountability by informing citizens about government actions (Besley and Prat, 2006; Snyder and Stromberg, 2010),” answered the professor to one of the questions asked by a scholar. “Yet, how effectively mass media inform the public depends, among other things, on the presence of other newsworthy events that may crowd out the news coverage of governments’ actions (Eisensee and Stromberg, 2007).” The assumption on which the study is built – and that the Israeli-Palestinian case seems to demonstrate – is that politicians might exploit the presence of other “newsworthy events” to put forward unpopular actions so that they coincide with major events that distract the audience.

However, could this perhaps be the overly-pessimistic vision of the researcher? The data shows otherwise. In particular, Professor Durante shows in his work that when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is given coverage in the media, there is a 12% increase in the Google searches related to the topic.

Let us focus on the case studied in the paper: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since the 70s, the Israeli government has put a great effort in projecting a positive image of Israel and its army abroad. This policy is denominated Hasbara, which in Hebrew means “explanation”, and entails the production of informative material on issues regarding Israel and the Middle East. Furthermore, Hasbara includes collaborations between international and local journalists, and social-media usage to influence public opinion. Nothing similar is in place in Palestine.

In his article the Professor writes: “Most likely, in an armed conflict nothing has a worse impact on the international public opinion than civilian casualties.” The factions involved seem to be perfectly aware of the primary role mass media have in informing, and thus influencing, public opinion. Evidence of this is found, for instance, in the words of the Prime Minister Netanyahu who, when interviewed by the CNN about the numerous civilian victims, commented: “[Hamas] wants to pile up as many civilian dead as they can…they use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause.”

By combining daily data on attacks on both sides of the conflict with data on the content of evening news for top U.S. TV networks, the authors show that: “Israeli attacks are more likely to be carried out when the U.S. news are expected to be dominated by important (non-Israel-related, such as an election or the Super Bowl) events on the following day.” Specifically, the empirical findings indicate that the strategic timing of the Israeli army is less relevant in a period of intense fighting as opposed to attacks in a period of relative peace. Moreover, the attacks are strategically planned only in the case when there is the possibility of civilian casualties. Thus, the facts documented in the paper confirm that the aim of Israel is that of “minimizing negative international publicity” – and in the case of graphic or emotional contents regarding civilian victims, would result in a strong, negative impact on the American public opinion.

In contrast, the researchers find “no evidence that attacks by Palestinian militant groups are timed to U.S. news pressure.” This might be reflecting the marked gap that exists between the two arrays: unlike Israel, Palestine does not have a structured or well-organized army, nor does it have the same level of resources that would allow it to plan such attacks strategically. Nevertheless, it should be noted that this does not exclude the possibility of Palestine’s lack of interest towards shaping American public opinion.

Beyond the interesting findings of the research on the role international media plays in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this study also reminds us of the powerful responsibility it holds. In particular, mass media is a watchdog powerful enough to influence the actions of governments by simply carrying out their mission of informing citizens. This becomes even more important when considering the exponential interconnectedness of people throughout the globe via technological progresses.

References

  1. Besley, Timothy and Andrea Prat, “Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Political Accountability,” American Economic Review, 2006, 96 (3), 720–736.
  2. Eisensee, Thomas and David Stromberg, “News Droughts, News Floods, and U.S. Disaster Relief,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 05 2007, 122 (2), 693–728.
  3. Snyder, James M. and David Stromberg, “Press Coverage and Political Accountability,” Journal of Political Economy, 04 2010, 118 (2), 355-408.

A bullet a day keeps the doctor away: the effect of war over health expenditure

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series showcasing Barcelona GSE master projects by students in the Class of 2014. The project is a required component of every master program.


A bullet a day keeps the doctor away: the effect of war over health expenditure

Authors:

Rita Abdel Sater and María José Ospina Fadul

Master Program:

Health Economics and Policy

Project Summary:

Although there is an ongoing debate on how much an increase in health expenditure would actually improve the health condition of its population (as this relation also depends in factor such as efficiency), the truth is that the level of expenditure in many developing countries is still under the basic needed level suggested by the World Health Organization. Furthermore, it has become clear that the public budget plays a fundamental role in the financing of a health system: in fact, the public expenditure on health should increase by 5% on average in these countries to provide the basic conditions in order to accomplish the millennium goals. However, the struggle to achieve acceptable levels of health expenditure has faced several obstacles. This article intends to determine if war is in fact one of them.

Within this context, this article tries to determine the effect of war over health expenditure level and composition, particularly in terms of the public budget participation. So far several articles have examined the effects of war over public health but none have determined the effect that it has over the levels and the composition of the health expenditure. Additionally, this article contributes to the existent literature in the sense that it classifies conflicts as high or low intensity and discerners between these two when determining their effect over health expenditure.

We used panel data on the 27 countries that had both episodes of war and episodes of peace in the period that goes from 1995 to 2008. We applied clustering techniques to classify these conflicts as high or low intensity and after this we used Arellano-Bond estimators to determine the effect of war over the level and composition of health expenditure.

Sample and intensity classification
Sample and intensity classification

 

Surprisingly, we found that low intensity wars have a negative and statistically significant effect over health expenditure while there seems to be no effect when there is a high intensity war. Moreover, we found that public expenditure in health increases when there is a high intensity war while there is no change in the composition when there is a low intensity war. These results suggest that when there is a high intensity conflict the decrease in private investment in health is compensated by an increase in public expenditure, while in countries exposed to low intensity wars the decrease in private expenditure is not equalized by an increase in public expenditure.

Finally, in terms of the compositions of this expenditure we found that the public expenditure in health as a percentage of total public expenditure stays the same in countries exposed to high intensity conflicts while it decreases in countries with low intensity conflicts. These results, in combinations with the former, provide empirical evidence to support Peacock and Wiseman’s expenditure displacement theory according to which public expenditure increases during times of crisis.

 

[slideshare id=38816026&doc=effect-war-health-expenditure-140908043800-phpapp01]

Firms in conflict: adapt or perish

Being an entrepreneur is a difficult activity, and being an entrepreneur in a developing country is even more difficult. But being an entrepreneur in a developing country affected by a violent conflict situation seems almost impossible. In fact, it is not.

Francesco Amodio (Economics ’10) is a PhD student in the GPEFM doctoral program organized by Universitat Pompeu Fabra with the Barcelona GSE. He and co-author Michele Di Maio (University of Naples Parthenope) have published the following post on the blog of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI):

Firms in conflict: adapt or perish

Being an entrepreneur is a difficult activity, and being an entrepreneur in a developing country is even more difficult. But being an entrepreneur in a developing country affected by a violent conflict situation seems almost impossible. In fact, it is not.

Read the full post on the SIPRI blog.

This week, Francesco is co-organizing the first Barcelona GSE Phd Jamboree. The Jamboree is a two-day workshop for GPEFM and IDEA students to share ideas and get feedback on their work in progress.

Note to all Barcelona GSE students and alumni:

If you have been published on the web or in a print publication and would like The Voice to link to your work, please send us a link and a short excerpt.