Can War Foster Institutional Change?

26 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2018

Date Written: June 16, 2018


Exposure to violent conflict increases prosocial behavior, which is a form of social capital or informal institutions. This article studies whether these changes to informal institutions map into change to formal institutions, and if this mapping is characterized by substitutability or complementarity between institutions. To test this hypothesis, we use the synthetic control method to construct a counterfactual path of formal institutions in Sierra Leone and Burundi during and after violent conflict. Results indicate that violence and the corresponding change to informal institutions leads to a persistent decline in the quality of the formal legal system and protections of private property. We interpret this as evidence of substitutability between informal and formal institutions.

Keywords: Institutional Change, Violent Conflict, Social Capital, Sierra Leone, Burundi

JEL Classification: D74, O17, P48, P50

Suggested Citation

O'Reilly, Colin, Can War Foster Institutional Change? (June 16, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Colin O'Reilly (Contact Author)

Creighton University ( email )

2500 California St.
Omaha, NE 68178
United States

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