How Wartime Violence Affects Social Cohesion: The Spatial-Temporal Gravity Model
25 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 26 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
Local communities such as villages are commonly assumed to be vital partners in counterinsurgency and post-conflict reconstruction. However, the success of this strategy depends on the level of social cohesion at the community level -- communities with internal cleavages and fissures will be less effective in making external efforts a success. In this paper, we study how exposure to civil war violence affects internal cohesion of communities. On the one hand, we could assume that exposure to a common threat strengthens social ties. On the other hand, shifting power structures in conflict regions could introduce new loyalties and cleavages at the village level, thus eroding the social glue. We use data from a survey conducted in Northern Afghanistan, and combine it with data on violent events from military records. Our results provide evidence for the second mechanism: Exposure to violence makes villagers diverge more in their support for the conflict parties. We estimate a spatial-temporal gravity model, which demonstrates that the proximity of an event matters, where spatially and temporally proximate events have the highest impact on the polarization at the village level.
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