Winning Proposal to the Pierce Scholar's Fund: 2017 Competition

Project Title: Ex-Combatants' Beliefs about Political Connections, Economic Support, and Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia

Faculty Sponsor: Nahomi Ichino

Graduate Student: Megan Ryan

Project Description

Post-conflict countries are prone to what conflict experts refer to as the conflict trap— countries that have experienced one civil war face a 44 percent risk of returning to civil war in the next five years (Collier and Sambanis 2003). Civil conflict erodes the economy, destroys trust in political institutions, and leaves behind a legacy of atrocities and severe grievances, conditions that can drive a vicious cycle of conflict (Collier and Sambanis 2003; De Juan and Pierskalla 2014; Walter 2004). One influential argument is that poverty is one of the most important explanations for why individuals choose to re-enlist in war, even more important than the severe grievances that incited conflict in the first place (Walter 2004). However, the body of micro-level evidence for this argument is still fairly thin. A recent field experiment and quasiexperiment on whether economic re-integration programs reduce the return of former combatants to rebellion have yielded mixed findings (Blattman 2016; Gilligan, Mvukiyehe, and Samii 2013). This suggests that that the relationship between former combatants’ economic condition and their propensity to return to rebellion may be sensitive to local conditions or specific circumstances of the combatants themselves. We propose to develop a field experiment in Aceh, Indonesia, on the same question, with particular attention to how the treatment effects may vary with (a) an individual’s association with the political party in power, and (b) his or her beliefs about whether being associated with the ruling party affects one’s ability to improve one’s own living conditions.