Destruction from Above: Long-Term Legacies of the Tokyo Air Raids
59 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2019 Last revised: 17 Jun 2021
Date Written: June 16, 2021
What are the long-term effects of community-level destruction on human and social capital? This question is important for understanding the consequences of war and other disasters, but is often challenging to answer given the nonrandom nature of exposure to destruction, and coarse measurement of damages. We use historical aerial photographs taken after the United States’ indiscriminate firebombing of Tokyo during World War II to generate detailed data on conditionally independent variation in neighborhood-level damages from the air raids. Decades after the bombings, the most heavily damaged neighborhoods continued to exhibit worse outcomes on several socioeconomic measures of human capital, and lower levels of social capital as measured by the presence of an authorized neighborhood association. These findings are consistent with the idea that the social capital of survivors is a key ingredient for postwar recovery; when fewer survivors remain, communities can potentially be set on a path of persistent disadvantage.
Keywords: historical persistence, political violence, geographic information systems (GIS), remote-sensing, social capital
JEL Classification: C80, D64, D74, I24, J64, K42, N35, N45
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