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Violence and the perception of risk associated with hosting refugees


How do individuals’ experiences with political violence affect their perceptions regarding the risk associated with hosting refugees? This is an important question given that many communities are beginning to resent and oppose hosting refugees. To explore answers to the question, we study recent exposure to violence within Lebanon, which is a meaningful context since Lebanon serves as host to more than one million refugees from the Syrian Civil War. We adopt a novel empirical strategy to isolate the effect of exposure to violence upon perceptions of risk associated with hosting refugees. We exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the timing of violent events linked to refugee populations in Lebanon relative to the timing of responses to our nationally representative survey deployed between June and August 2017. Our empirical strategy compares individuals interviewed before and after violent attacks in Lebanon. The results suggest that recent exposure to violence by Syrian militants increases individuals’ perceptions of risk associated with hosting refugees from conflict zones, while exposure to violence carried out by Lebanese forces reduces perceptions of risk.

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The research reported herein was supported by award W911-NF-17-1-0030 from the Department of Defense and US Army Research Office/Army Research Laboratory under the Minerva Research Initiative. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Department of Defense or the Army Research Office/Army Research Laboratory. The authors are grateful to Todd Sandler and two anonymous reviewers as well as the following individuals for their thoughtful and constructive comments on earlier versions of this paper: Laura Bakkensen, Jennifer Cyr, Samara Klar, Jeff Kucik, Paul Schuler, Chad Westerland and participants at the Political Violence and Policy conference at the University of Texas at Dallas, May 2018. All remaining errors are our own.

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Correspondence to Alex Braithwaite.

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Braithwaite, A., Chu, T.S., Curtis, J. et al. Violence and the perception of risk associated with hosting refugees. Public Choice 178, 473–492 (2019).

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  • Refugees
  • Exposure to violence
  • Public attitudes
  • Civil war
  • Lebanon

JEL Classification

  • D74
  • D91
  • F5