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The Consequences of Child Soldiering

  • Christopher Blattman


    (University of California, Berkeley)

Civil wars have afflicted two-thirds of African nations, drawing up to a third of male youth into armed groups. Little is known, however, about the long term effects of military participation due to a lack of data and potential sample selection: recruits are usually self-selected and screened, and may also selectively survive. This paper presents new evidence on the causal impact of military participation using an original dataset collected by the author in northern Uganda. The large-scale, indiscriminate and forcible abduction of youth by Ugandan rebels provide arguably exogenous variation in exposure to conflict. Results suggest that the most prevalent effect of abduction is on human capital acquisition: abductees lose nearly a year of schooling on average. Combined with a greater incidence of injuries, this schooling loss leads to nearly a third lower earnings. Meanwhile, exposure to conflict seems to increase political participation: abductees are more likely to vote and twice as likely to be community leaders. Finally, the psychological impacts of war appear to be moderate and concentrated in a minority. These results run counter to the prevailing view that war primarily causes ‘psychosocial’ distress. Post-conflict policy implications are discussed.

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Paper provided by Households in Conflict Network in its series HiCN Working Papers with number 22.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:22
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