Epidemics and Conflict: Evidence from the Ebola Outbreak in Western Africa

49 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2020 Last revised: 14 Jul 2022

See all articles by Ada González-Torres

Ada González-Torres

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Elena Esposito

University of Lausanne

Date Written: May 31, 2016


This paper provides causal evidence of the impact of a rapidly spreading epidemic on civil violence, and sheds light on its drivers. Novel data at high spatial and temporal resolution of the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa reveal that epidemics spark civil violence, driven by low trust in state institutions. Epidemics generate an increased demand for public goods, calling for a rapid response from the state, including its coercive power. However, its ability to respond is limited in weak institutional settings. We find that different types of containment efforts have opposite effects, depending on existing levels of trust. The provision of public health facilities unambiguously lowers violence, while area blockades lead to a rise in violence only among groups that mistrust the state. The effects of the epidemic on civil violence persist years after the outbreak ended.

Keywords: conflict, violence, health, epidemics, institutions, trust, public goods, Africa

JEL Classification: C23, D74, H41, I15, N37, O11, O12, O19, P16

Suggested Citation

González-Torres, Ada and Esposito, Elena, Epidemics and Conflict: Evidence from the Ebola Outbreak in Western Africa (May 31, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3544606 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3544606

Ada González-Torres (Contact Author)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

1 Ben-Gurion Blvd
Beer-Sheba 84105, 84105

HOME PAGE: http://adagonzaleztorres.weebly.com/

Elena Esposito

University of Lausanne ( email )

Quartier Chambronne
Lausanne, Vaud CH-1015

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