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The Behavioral Consequences of Conflict Exposure on Risk Preferences  

Enrique Fatas, Nathaly Jiménez, Lina Restrepo-Plaza, and Gustavo Rincón

Violent conflict is a polyhedric phenomenon. Beyond the destruction of physical and human capital and the economic, political, and social costs war generates, there is an additional burden carried by victims: persistent changes in the way they make decisions. Exposure to violence generates changes in how individuals perceive other individuals from their group and other groups, how they discount the future, and how they assess and tolerate risk. The behavioral consequences of violence exposure can be documented using experiments in which participants make decisions in a controlled, incentive-compatible scenario. The external validity of experiments is reinforced when the studies are run in postconflict scenarios, for example, in Colombia, with real victims of conflict. The experimental tasks, therefore, may map risk attitudes among victims and nonvictims of the conflict who share a common background, and distinguish between different types of exposure (direct versus indirect) and different sources of violence (conflict-related versus criminal violence). The experimental evidence collected in Colombia is consistent with a long-lasting and substantial effect of conflict exposure on risk attitudes. Victims are more likely to take risks and less likely to make safe choices than nonvictims, controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and attitudinal factors. The effect is significant only when the source of violence is conflict (exerted by guerrilla or paramilitary militias) and when violence is experienced directly by individuals. Indirect conflict exposure (suffered by close relatives) and criminal violence leave no significant mark on participants’ risk attitudes in the study.

Article

Religiosity and Development  

Jeanet Sinding Bentzen

Economics of religion is the application of economic methods to the study of causes and consequences of religion. Ever since Max Weber set forth his theory of the Protestant ethic, social scientists have compared socioeconomic differences across Protestants and Catholics, Muslims, and Christians, and more recently across different intensities of religiosity. Religiosity refers to an individual’s degree of religious attendance and strength of beliefs. Religiosity rises with a growing demand for religion resulting from adversity and insecurity or a surging supply of religion stemming from increasing numbers of religious organizations, for instance. Religiosity has fallen in some Western countries since the mid-20th century, but has strengthened in several other societies around the world. Religion is a multidimensional concept, and religiosity has multiple impacts on socioeconomic outcomes, depending on the dimension observed. Religion covers public religious activities such as church attendance, which involves exposure to religious doctrines and to fellow believers, potentially strengthening social capital and trust among believers. Religious doctrines teach belief in supernatural beings, but also social views on hard work, refraining from deviant activities, and adherence to traditional norms. These norms and social views are sometimes orthogonal to the general tendency of modernization, and religion may contribute to the rising polarization on social issues regarding abortion, LGBT rights, women, and immigration. These norms and social views are again potentially in conflict with science and innovation, incentivizing some religious authorities to curb scientific progress. Further, religion encompasses private religious activities such as prayer and the particular religious beliefs, which may provide comfort and buffering against stressful events. At the same time, rulers may exploit the existence of belief in higher powers for political purposes. Empirical research supports these predictions. Consequences of higher religiosity include more emphasis on traditional values such as traditional gender norms and attitudes against homosexuality, lower rates of technical education, restrictions on science and democracy, rising polarization and conflict, and lower average incomes. Positive consequences of religiosity include improved health and depression rates, crime reduction, increased happiness, higher prosociality among believers, and consumption and well-being levels that are less sensitive to shocks.