Violent Conflict and the Strength of Civil Society

50 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2021

Date Written: September 17, 2021


Leading theories of institutional and economic development emphasize the role of informal norms and the strength of civil society. Though informal norms and civil society are usually thought to change incrementally, exposure to violent conflict may shock these institutions. Well identified household level studies show that exposure to violent conflict may increase political participation, participation in social groups, involvement in community leadership, and contributions to public goods (Bauer et al. 2016). Evidence suggests that civil war may influence formal institutional quality at the country level, however, evidence that violence can change civil society or informal norms at the county level is sparse. In this study I apply the synthetic control method to model the impact of violent conflict on the strength of civil society at the country level. I focus on five countries in which existing micro-level evidence suggests that exposure to violence changes to behavior or informal norms: Sierra Leone, Burundi, Uganda, Nepal and Liberia. Results of the synthetic control analysis suggests that civil war is associated with stronger civil society in at least some contexts.

Keywords: Institutional Change, Violent Conflict, Informal Norms, Civil Society

JEL Classification: D74, O17, P48, P50

Suggested Citation

O'Reilly, Colin, Violent Conflict and the Strength of Civil Society (September 17, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Colin O'Reilly (Contact Author)

Creighton University ( email )

2500 California St.
Omaha, NE 68178
United States

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