Destruction from Above: Long-Term Impacts of WWII Tokyo Air Raids

79 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2019

See all articles by Masataka Harada

Masataka Harada

Fukuoka University - Faculty of Economics

Gaku Ito

Hiroshima University

Daniel M. Smith

Harvard University - Department of Government

Date Written: October 16, 2019


What are the long-term socioeconomic impacts of wartime violence? We use historical aerial imagery of the aftermath of the United States’ indiscriminate firebombing of Tokyo in 1945 to generate detailed neighborhood-level data on damages—helping us to overcome the methodological challenges of nonrandom assignment and coarse measurement. Decades after the air raids, the most heavily bombed neighborhoods continued to suffer socioeconomically—with higher crime, lower educational attainment, and higher unemployment. Causal mediation analysis reveals that these patterns cannot be explained by the ratio of new residents or the construction of high-rise buildings, and a geo-coded survey featuring behavioral experiments indicates less altruism in affected neighborhoods. In contrast to previous studies that stress how violence might affect social cohesion (positively or negatively) through individual or family-level trauma, our findings suggest that community-level exposure to violence might create persistent legacies by displacing victims and altering the urban landscape, thereby fragmenting local communities.

Keywords: political violence, World War II, Tokyo firebombing, Japan, historical legacies, causal inference, geographic information systems (GIS), remote-sensing

JEL Classification: D64, D74, I24, J64, K42, N35, N45

Suggested Citation

Harada, Masataka and Ito, Gaku and Smith, Daniel M., Destruction from Above: Long-Term Impacts of WWII Tokyo Air Raids (October 16, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Masataka Harada (Contact Author)

Fukuoka University - Faculty of Economics

19-1, Nanakuma 8-Chome
Jonan-ku, Fukuoka, Fukuoka 8140180

Gaku Ito

Hiroshima University ( email )


HOME PAGE: http://

Daniel M. Smith

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States


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