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Natural disasters, aid distribution, and social conflict – Micro-level evidence from the 2015 earthquake in Nepal

Alexander De Juan, Jan Pierskalla and Elisa Schwarz

World Development, 2020, vol. 126, issue C

Abstract: How do natural disasters influence social conflict? We build on previous research by drawing more attention to conditional effects. We argue that damage and destruction tend to increase local-level cooperation and cohesion, as common threats and challenges supersede pre-existing communal cleavages. Irregular distribution of reconstruction aid, in the presence of pre-existing social inequalities, however, can dampen these effects and foster social conflict. We test this argument with a village-level analysis of the effects of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal: we rely on data on the exogenous spatial distribution of earthquake intensity, the number of violent events, and the patterns of post-disaster aid distribution. Our findings show that villages exposed to the earthquake experienced a reduction in the number of social conflict events. This pacifying effect is mediated by government aid distribution: as more aid is distributed, the conflict-mitigating effects of the earthquake are weakened. These results highlight the need for more conflict-sensitive reconstruction aid in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Keywords: Disaster; Earthquake; Aid; Conflict; Asia; Nepal (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.104715

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