We investigate whether the threat of recruitment by rebel groups spurs domestic and international migration. The existing literature on wartime displacement has largely focused on potential victims of violence. We argue that alongside potential victims, we should expect to see the out-migration of individuals who are attractive to the rebels as potential recruits. To test this hypothesis, we draw on original survey data collected in the context of the MFDC insurgency in southern Senegal. Causal identification stems from instrumenting recruitment threat with the density of the local forest canopy cover. Analyzing data from 3,200 respondents and over 24,000 family members, we show that individuals who fit the recruitment profiles of rebel groups are more likely to leave or be sent away by their families. Our paper contributes micro-evidence of a mechanism that has received scant attention and provides a deeper understanding of the composition of refugee flows.
Terrorism and child mortality (with D. Meierrieks ). Working Paper.
How does terrorism affect child mortality? We use geocoded data on terrorism and highly spatially disaggregated data on child mortality to study the relationship between both variables for 52 African countries between 2000 and 2017 at the 0.5 ×0.5 degree grid-cell level. A two-way fixed-effects approach indicates that higher levels of terrorist activity correlate with higher levels of child mortality risk. Our estimates suggest that moderate increases in the terrorism index are linked to several thousand additional deaths of children under the age of five per year. Employing instrumental-variable and panel event-study approaches, we also provide causal evidence that terrorism increases the risk of death for children under the age of five. Effect sizes associated with these causal estimates are several times larger than those from the more conservative two-way fixed-effects approach. Finally, interrogating our data, we show that the direct effects of terrorism (e.g., in terms of its lethality and destruction of public health infrastructure) tend to be very small. This, in turn, suggests that increases in child mortality primarily emerge through the behavioral response of economic agents (parents, doctors, medical staff, aid workers and policymakers) to terrorism. Indeed, we provide evidence that higher levels of terrorist activity unfavorably correlate with several proximate causes of child mortality.
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.
Demographic and attitudinal legacies of the Armenian genocide. Working paper. Under review.
This paper presents the results of a first-ever representative survey on the demographic and attitudinal legacies of the Armenian genocide. Even though the genocide, during which an estimated of 1.5 million Armenians were killed and another 800,000 were made refugees, took place more than one hundred years ago, its consequences are still clearly visible in the demographic structure and political culture of contemporary Armenia. The survey, conducted in 2018, shows that 54 percent of Armenians descend from refugees of the genocide, while no less than 45 percent have victims of the genocide among their relatives. The data also demonstrates how the genocide continues to influence political attitudes in contemporary Armenia---evidence that allows me to weigh in on several important debates in political science. Echoing similar findings from other world regions, descendants of refugees from the genocide tend to be more open to outsiders, and also show more prosocial behavior. In contrast, having lost family members during the genocide is associated with elevated levels of ethnocentrism, scepticism towards foreign powers, and lower levels of prosocial behavior. However, rather than victimization leading to militarism and hawkishness, respondents who lost family members tend to be less supportive of military solutions. The findings demonstrate the lasting influence of the genocide on Armenian society and contribute important insights to the debate on the long-term effects of violence on political attitudes.
Mass emigration and the erosion of liberal democracy (with D. Auer). Under review.
In many regions of the world, liberal politics are on the retreat. These processes are 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 350,000 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. We posit that a likely link between the two phenomena is voting: Based on a simulation exercise, we estimate that the emigrants’ absence is costing liberal parties 1.4 million votes every round of elections. Our results, which plausibly extend to other world regions, suggest that mass emigration may be an important explanation for democratic backsliding.
Voting at the dawn of a global pandemic (with A. Leininger). Working paper. Under review.
What is the impact of a global health crisis on political behavior? We study the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on electoral choice based on the case of Germany, one of the countries most heavily affected by the crisis. Our data come from the German state of Bavaria, where local elections were held right at the beginning of the pandemic. The elections took place early during the outbreak when there was still substantial variation in the extent to which individual counties and municipalities were affected by the outbreak. This variation provides a unique opportunity to study the causal impact of an event that would shortly after grow into an all-encompassing epidemic. We provide evidence that shows that the disease spread across the state in a mostly haphazard fashion. This lack of a discernible pattern coupled with within-county estimation of effects and a difference-in-differences strategy allow us to causally asses the effect of the spreading of the virus on electoral outcomes. Our results show that the crisis strongly and consistently benefited the dominant regional party, the CSU, and its candidates. For 3 known cases per 100,000 inhabitants, vote shares increased by about 4 percent. We explain our findings with a strategic-alignment mechanism, whereby voters vote into power candidates that they deem most likely to be able to solicit support from higher levels of government. Our findings emphasize the merit of forward-looking theories of voting, and provide insights on the functioning of democracy during crisis.
Genocide and the Perception of Politics: The Legacy of Mass Violence and Protest Behavior in Armenia (with R. Hakimov). Under review.
Can memories of mass violence explain participation in revolutionary protest? We study the case of Armenia, where large parts of the population descend from survivors of genocide, and which recently saw large-scale demonstrations that led to the removal of the incumbent president. We bring to bear an original, nationally representative dataset (n=2,637) collected between the `velvet revolution' and the first elections under the new government. Our data shows that individuals who count victims of the Armenian genocide among their family members were much more likely to protest, and are also more likely to have voted in the elections that followed the revolution. To avoid desirability bias we deploy an indirect measure of protest participation and use verified voting records from the national register to measure turnout. Our findings hold when we control for historical background characteristics and place-of-origin fixed effects, and when investigating behavior at the intensive margin: the more severe the historical victimization, the more likely individuals took part in the revolution. We then go on to explain the mechanism behind our finding. We theorize that memories of violence can make the larger forces of politics matter to individuals, thereby increasing political sophistication and spurring political action. Using causal mediation analysis, we provide empirical evidence for our theory. While individuals from victimized families share most political preferences with the rest of the population, they show deeper political knowledge, greater political interest, and consider politics as more important for their private lives. Besides adding a highly relevant case to the literature on the legacies of violence, our study therefore provides a new theoretical explanation for the puzzling link between political engagement and experiences of violence.