Research

 

Publications:

9.“Preferences for Violence in Civil War: Evidence from Syria,” (with Loubna Mrie and Sam Whitt), Forthcoming, Journal of Conflict Resolution

8. “From the Maidan to the Military: Mobilizing Civilians for Counter-Insurgency in Eastern Ukraine,” (with Sam Whitt,) Forthcoming, Journal of Peace Research

7. “Risk Tolerance during Conflict: Evidence from Aleppo, Syria,” (with Loubna Mrie and Sam Whitt), Forthcoming, Journal of Peace Research Supplementary Appendix

6. “Minority Status and Investment: Evidence from Natural and Lab Experiments in Bosnia and Herzegovina” (with Yegor Lazarev), World Development , Volume 106, June 2018, Pages 27-39

5.“Violence and the Evolution of Social Norms” (with Sam Whitt), 2016, Journal of Peace Research,  53 (5), pp 648-664 (Replication Dataset- Here )

4.. “International Peacekeeping and Micro-foundations for Positive Peace” (with Sam Whitt), 2015, Journal of Conflict Resolution

3. “Social Norms after Conflict Exposure and Victimization by Violence” (with Sam Whitt), 2016, British Journal of Political Science , pp. 1–17.

2. “Ethnicity and Altruism after Violence ” (with Sam Whitt), 2014, Journal of Experimental Political Science, 1(2), pp. 170-180 [Online Appendix]

1. “Unintended media effects in a conflict environment: Serbian radio and Croatian nationalism” with Stefano DellaVigna, Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, American Economic Journals: Applied Economics; 6(3): 103132; [Online Appendix]

Working papers

6. A History of Violence: Field Evidence on Trauma, Discounting and Present Bias” (with Alex Imas and Michael Kuhn), Under Review

The extent to which an individual discounts the future and whether they discount in a time-consistent fashion is an important determinant of their life outcome. Using a novel study design in a field experiment in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we show that direct exposure to violence substantially increases present bias. We also demonstrate that providing individuals with a delay between information about the choice and the choice itself mitigates the differences in behavior between those who were exposed to violence and those who were not. Our findings suggest that enforcing a cooling off period between income notification and consumption opportunities may help generate more patient choices and mitigate the elevated impulsivity of individuals that have experienced violence. We measure our treatment effects both in reduced-form as well as in the form of structural estimates of a quasi-hyperbolic discounting function to enable comparison with measures of other types of time inconsistency and a welfare evaluation of the treatment effect. Our results have implications for policy aimed at alleviating the deleterious effects of present bias and the role of deliberation in the structure of commitment contracts.

 

Ongoing Projects:

“Voices of Syria”

Funding: Harvard Law School (Program on Negotiations), Harvard Next Generation Grant and National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism

Publications

Fight or Flight in Civil War? Evidence from Rebel-Controlled Syria (with Sam Whitt and Loubna Mrie) Under Review
Supplementary Appendix

Faced with prospects of a civil war escalating on their doorstep, ordinary people must decide whether to take up arms and join the fight, to stay in place and seek shelter in confines of the conflict zone, or to flee their homes in search of safer locations. Using original survey and experimental data from the ongoing conflict in Syria, we try to understand how people facing conflict make critical life-and-death decisions. Drawing on a range of hypotheses from the existing literature, we find compelling evidence that in-group ties and grievance motivations explain fight vs. flight decision-making at the individual level. Using well-balanced samples of over 300 Free Syrian Army and Islamist fighters, civilian non-combatants, and externally displaced refugees from actively contested regions of Syria, we observe that people with strong in-group bonds and out-group aversions are more likely to stay and fight. In contrast, refugees are far less revenge-seeking and more willing to negotiate for peace. Overall, our research suggests that heterogeneous preferences and motivations within subpopulations of civil war participants can create serious coordination problems with practical implications for conflict duration and outcomes.

Grievances and Role Differentiation in Civil War: Micro-Level Evidence from Syria (with Sam Whitt), Under Review 

Recent macro-level studies have revived interest in grievance-based explanations for civil war participation. Using original survey data from the ongoing conflict in Syria, we examine whether fighters, civilians, and refugees can be distinguished based on a number of proxies for personal, sectarian, and regime-based grievances at the micro-level. Based on a well-balanced sample of over 300 active rebel fighters, civilians from within the conflict zone, and externally displaced refugees, we observe that some proxies for grievances are elevated among active combatants. Our results speak to the plausible role of grievances in differentiating combatants from non-combatants during civil war. We also evaluate a potential psychological mechanism where grievances drive individuals to discount risks of fighting out of a desire for agency and empowerment on one hand and anger, hatred, and revenge-seeking on the other, and we find some evidence in favor of both.

Altruism and Violence (with Sam Whitt and Rick Wilson) Under Review

Our research examines in-group and inter-group social norms between civilians and combatants using behavioral experiments. We examine how conflict affects a basic norm of altruism toward identifiable in-groups and out-groups during a period of ongoing violence.

Mentioned English: Vice News, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, NPR, The Atlantic, American Interest, Council on Foreign Relations, The Baltimore Sun, U-T San Diego, ArmyTimes, NavyTimes, Voice of America, HKS PolicyCast, CBC/Radio-Canada (Canada), Harvard Gazzette, Political Violence at a Glance blog, The Duck of Minerva blog, Syria in Crises blog and Syria Comment blog; Russian: Novaya Gazeta, Vedomosti ; Kurdish: Awene

Interview about the project in Harvard Gazette.
Podcast about the project- Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast
Podcast about the project- Harvard Davis Center

Reports

November 2014 Summary Statistics for Ex-Fighters in Turkey and Syria

August 2014 Summary Statistics for Islamists in Syria

April 2014 Summary Statistics for Ex-Fighters in Turkey

February 2014 Summary Statistics for Civilians in Syria and Refugees in Turkey

February 2014 Summary Statistics for Aleppo and Idlib

“Conflict in Ukraine”

Reports :

August 2014 : Summary Statistics for Civilians and Fighters

 

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Detention Center in West Mosul, March 2017