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A Micro-Level Event-Centered Approach to Investigating Armed Conflict and Population Responses

Demography

Abstract

In this article, we construct and test a micro-level event-centered approach to the study of armed conflict and behavioral responses in the general population. Event-centered approaches have been successfully used in the macro-political study of armed conflict but have not yet been adopted in micro-behavioral studies. The micro-level event-centered approach that we advocate here includes decomposition of a conflict into discrete political and violent events, examination of the mechanisms through which they affect behavior, and consideration of differential risks within the population. We focus on two mechanisms: instability and threat of harm. We test this approach empirically in the context of the recent decade-long armed conflict in Nepal, using detailed measurements of conflict-related events and a longitudinal study of first migration, first marriage, and first contraceptive use. Results demonstrate that different conflict-related events independently shaped migration, marriage, and childbearing and that they can simultaneously influence behaviors in opposing directions. We find that violent events increased migration, but political events slowed migration. Both violent and political events increased marriage and contraceptive use net of migration. Overall, this micro-level event-centered approach yields a significant advance for the study of how armed conflict affects civilian behavioral responses.

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Notes

  1. Another initially promising operationalization strategy is principal components analysis (PCA). However, PCA is inappropriate for the study of the effect of conflict events on behavior. PCA examines patterns of correlations between variables that represent characteristics of a single entity with the intent to identify latent characteristics of that entity. For the case of armed conflict, the variables that we are considering—such as gun battles and ceasefires—are not characteristics of a single entity. Thus, any factors derived through PCA could not be considered latent characteristics of a single entity or of these events.

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Acknowledgments

Portions of the work reported were supported by two generous grants from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD032912 and R01 HD033551) and by the Marshall Weinberg Endowment Fund of the University of Michigan Population Studies Center. We would like to thank Cathy Sun and Paul Schultz for programming assistance; the staff of the Institute for Social and Environmental Research, Chitwan, Nepal for data collection; and the interview respondents in Chitwan, Nepal for sharing their experiences.

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Williams, N.E., Ghimire, D.J., Axinn, W.G. et al. A Micro-Level Event-Centered Approach to Investigating Armed Conflict and Population Responses. Demography 49, 1521–1546 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-012-0134-8

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