HiCN Working paper 369.
How does terrorism affect child mortality? We use geo-coded data on terrorism and spatially disaggregated data on child mortality to study the relationship between both variables for 52 African countries between 2000 and 2017 at the 0.5x0.5 degree grid-cell level. Our estimates suggest that even moderate increases in terrorism are linked to several thousand additional annual deaths of children under the age of five. Instrumental-variable and panel event-study approaches that account for endogeneity point to economic effects that are several times larger. Interrogating our data, we show that the direct effects of terrorism (e.g., in terms of its lethality) tend to be very small. Instead, we theorize that terrorism causes child mortality primarily by triggering adverse behavioral responses by parents, medical workers, and policymakers, and provide suggestive evidence in support of this theory.
Elite murder and popular resistance: evidence from post-World War II Poland (with K. Krakowski). Under review. UNU-WIDER Working Paper 2022/148.
Does killing opposition elites prevent resistance against foreign-imposed regimes? On the one hand, elimination of elites can undermine an opposition's capacity for anti-regime resistance. Yet killing opposition elites deprives the new regime of useful human capital. Co-optation of elites becomes a tempting alternative. We examine this trade-off by studying the effects of elimination vis-à-vis survival of Polish elites during WWII. We focus on the Polish nobility, intellectuals, and (reserve) army officers. We exploit plausibly random variation in the officers' wartime deployment and imprisonment. While most officers in Nazi captivity survived, almost all of those in Soviet captivity were murdered. We find that municipalities with more surviving elites saw fewer protests during the Solidarność-led uprising against the communist rule in the 1980s. Historical evidence suggests that the regime had benefited from the surviving elites' capital. Surviving elites positively influenced local-level economic development, reducing citizens' hardship and thus grievances against the regime.
Voting at the dawn of a global pandemic (with A. Leininger). Under review.
Natural disasters are likely to increase in the near future. How does the emergence of such events influence voting behavior? While the literature has focused on the electoral repercussions after disaster has already struck, we investigate whether the onset of imminent disaster influences vote choice. We study the effect of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic on electoral choice in a setting that allows for causal identification: the local elections in Germany's southern state Bavaria in March 2020, where, at the time of the elections, only an as-if random sample of localities had recorded cases of COVID-19. We find that initial local outbreaks favored the political party governing at the state level, and hurt the far right.
Mass emigration and the erosion of liberal democracy (with D. Auer). Under review.
In many regions of the world, liberal politics is on the retreat. This development is usually explained with reference to inherently political phenomena. We propose an alternative explanation, linking democratic backsliding to deep-reaching demographic change caused by mass emigration. We argue that because migrants tend to be more politically liberal, their departure, if quantitatively significant, can hurt liberal democracy. Empirically, we focus on Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Since 2004, the region has lost about 9 percent of its population due to migration to Western Europe. Drawing on data from 430,000 individuals and a panel analysis, we show that CEE migrants systematically hold more liberal values than non-migrants, and that their exit went along with a deterioration of democracy in their home countries. Further analyses show that the mechanism we describe generalizes to various other world regions. Mass emigration may pose a challenge to democratic development in migrant-sending countries around the globe.
Health crises and the cultural roots of antisemitism (with E. Kanol). Pre-Analysis Plan.
Do health crises lead to a rise in antisemitism, and why? Scholars have recorded a close association between health crises and the prevalence of antisemitic stereotypes and the occurrence of antisemitic violence. We show that a similar relationship holds for the Covid-19 pandemic, and explore the reasons behind this relationship. We argue that pandemics can activate cultural scripts linking the spread of infectious diseases to Judaism, especially among Christian conservatives. We rule out alternative explanations that relate the activation of antisemitic stereotypes to modern forms of antisemitism, in particular right-wing ideology. Our data come from an original survey (n=17,800) fielded in Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work demonstrates the deep cultural roots of exclusionary political attitudes and the mechanisms behind their activation.
Migration and social change: evidence from post-WWII displacement in Germany (with V. Charnysh).
What are the political consequences of large-scale migration and resulting religious heterogeneity? How does exposure to individuals from a different religious denomination affect social norms? We exploit a quasi-exogenous increase in denominational diversity that resulted from the resettlement of 1.9 million German expellees from Central and Eastern Europe to predominantly rural communities in Bavaria after WWII. At over 20 percent of the population, the expellees fundamentally transformed the denominational makeup of localities that had been homogeneous for four centuries. Using an original dataset covering over 2,000 municipalities, we show that denominational diversity reduced church attendance, led to resignation of church membership, and increased support for progressive political parties and female political participation. Supplementing our analysis with individual-level survey data, we show that individuals who live in communities diversified by expellee arrival today hold more progressive gender norms and are more accepting of homosexuality and euthanasia. Our analysis sheds new light on the implications of large-scale migration and religious diversity for social change.
War undermines trust, low trust continues to kill: Violence, vaccines, and child mortality.
What are the long-term health consequences of violent conflict? It is well known that wars kill and maim civilians years after violence ceases. However, why exactly this is the case remains poorly understood. Some of the long-term effects of war, such as unexploded ordnance, destroyed health infrastructure, are straightforward. I investigate a more indirect, but no less consequential effect: The deleterious effect of conflict on trust. The experience of violence systematically goes along with lowered levels of interpersonal and institutional trust, an effect that can be extremely durable, persisting over several generations. At the same time, trust is an essential predictor for medical outcomes. Distrustful individuals are less likely to seek and follow medical advice, visit hospitals, and get their children vaccinated. By undermining trust, past violence continues to kill. To demonstrate this theory empirically, I combine information from over 1,5 million data points from DHS surveys, the Afrobarometer, and UCDP, which I analyze using generalized difference-in-difference models. Exposure to violence is associated with significantly reduced levels of institutional trust, which predict lower vaccination, and, in turn, higher rates of under-5 child mortality. Despite progress made in accounting for the manifold indirect effects of violent conflicts, we might still be underestimating the true cost of war.