Work in Progress

Heterogeneous Effects of Development Aid on Violent Unrest in Post-War Countries – Village-Level Evidence from Nepal

Revise & Resubmit

Many countries experience massive aid surges when civil wars end. However, operational contexts tend to remain particularly sensitive due to a combination of persisting local-level cleavages and weakened state institutions. Consequently, aid provision risks inciting distributional conflicts and violent unrest – most notably when resources are being injected into areas of high social heterogeneity and particularly low state capacity. I investigate this argument in the case of Nepal. Focusing on the first five post-war years, I combine geocoded aid data with village-level information on various forms of violent unrest, as well as on social demographics and administrative performance. The panel analyses yield positive correlations between aid and unrest. More fine-grained estimations reveal that this net effect results from a reduction of anti-state violence and a more pronounced escalation of non-state violence. The latter is mainly driven by aid provided to ethnically fractionalized villages under the administration of weak local-level state institutions.


Survey Participation Effects in Conflict Research

with Carlo Koos

Revise & Resubmit

Do survey participants respond differently if they have been interviewed before? Academic and policy interest in post-war political opinion has increased tremendously. One unexpected consequence of this surge of survey research is a growing probability that individuals will be interviewed multiple times. However, if participating in one survey causes respondents to change their attitudes or behavior, their subsequent survey responses may be biased in comparison to the rest of the sample population. Our paper aims to investigate such “survey participation effects” in conflict contexts. We draw on original, population-based survey data collected in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Our primary explanatory variable is previous survey participation. 18 percent of respondents in our representative sample report that they have been interviewed before. Multivariate analyses demonstrate that their stated attitudes on social relations, political institutions, gender norms and war-time victimization differ substantively from the responses of first-time interviewees. Moreover, our analyses indicate that experienced respondents have specific response styles – in particular, a tendency to support extreme response options. These findings call for a more careful consideration of the potential effects of multiple survey participation in conflict contexts.


Efficacy, Blame Attribution, and Protest Scope: Findings from a survey experiment in South Africa

with Miquel Pellicer and Eva Wegner

Revise & Resubmit

Similar grievances can motivate different types of protests in terms of demanding very specific policies within a given economic or political system or calling for a change of the system itself. Little is known about the factors that shape people’s preferences for different protest issue scopes. We investigate the role of perceptions of efficacy. Our hypothesis, based on findings in the social psychology literature, posits that higher efficacy/powerfulness reduces the psychological need to justify the system which, in turn, increases preference for broad protest issue scope. To test this hypothesis, we conduct a survey experiment in two South African townships. We find that individuals asked to recall a successful protest (vs. an unsuccessful one and vs. a control group), are not only more likely to feel powerful and have higher levels of efficacy. They are also more likely to attribute common social grievances to the system and to support protests calling for system change (social inequality) rather than specific policies (service provision). These results can help understanding protest dynamics as well as the political choices of the poor.


Natural Disasters, Aid Distribution, and Social Unrest –  Micro-Level Evidence from the 2015 Earthquake in Nepal

with Jan Pierskalla and Elisa Schwarz

Under Review

How do natural disasters influence social unrest? We argue that the inconclusiveness of previous research can be partly traced back to a conflation of two countervailing mechanisms. On the one hand, direct disaster exposure increases social cohesion and reduces social conflict. Government responses to disaster damage, on the other hand, can engender new conflict over the distribution of resources. We test this argument with a local-level analysis of the effects of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal: we rely on village-level data on the exogenous spatial distribution of earthquake intensity, the number of violent events, and the patterns of post-disaster aid distribution. We show that earthquake exposure reduced unrest but governmental aid distribution mediated this effect.