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Massive Civilian Displacement in Civil War: Assessing Variation in Colombia


  • Abbey Steele

    () (Yale University)


The displacement of civilians is a frequent, yet understudied, outcome of armed groups’ and civilians' behavior during civil wars. In particular, I find that displacement as a strategy of armed groups is an especially undeveloped area of study, and argue that a focus on mass displacements as the dependent variable can provide leverage for explaining variation in outcomes over time and across space. I suggest that three sets of factors explain the variation: armed groups’ goals, competition among armed groups, and community governance mechanisms. After outlining the theory and hypotheses, I consider the implications of the approach for appropriate units of analysis. With data on displacement in the Colombian civil war, I use both events of massive displacement and municipal population flows as indicators of the dependent variable to consider the plausibility of the framework’s empirical implications. Finally, I propose additional qualitative, micro-level research strategies to enable tests of the mechanisms underlying the theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Abbey Steele, 2007. "Massive Civilian Displacement in Civil War: Assessing Variation in Colombia," HiCN Working Papers 29, Households in Conflict Network.
  • Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:29

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Everett Lee, 1966. "A theory of migration," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 3(1), pages 47-57, March.
    2. Jean-Paul Azam & Anke Hoeffler, 2002. "Violence Against Civilians in Civil Wars: Looting or Terror?," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 39(4), pages 461-485, July.
    3. Fabio SANCHEZ TORRES & Ana María DIAZ & Michel FORNISANO, 2003. "Conflicto, violencia y actividad criminal en Colombia: Un análisis espacial," ARCHIVOS DE ECONOMÍA 002185, DEPARTAMENTO NACIONAL DE PLANEACIÓN.
    4. Ana Maria Ibáñez & Carlos Eduardo Vélez, 2005. "Civil Conflict And Forced Migration: The Micro Determinantes And The Welfare Losses Of Displacement In Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 002127, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    5. Klaus Deininger & Ana María Ibáñez & Pablo Querubin, 2004. "Towards Sustainable Return Policies for the Displaced Population: Why Are Some Displaced Households More Willing to Return than Others?," HiCN Working Papers 07, Households in Conflict Network.
    6. Jeremy M. Weinstein, 2005. "Resources and the Information Problem in Rebel Recruitment," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 49(4), pages 598-624, August.
    7. Patricia Neira, 2004. "Desplazamiento Forzoso En Soacha ¿Se Recuperan Los Desplazados Del Choque Inicial?," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 002299, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    8. World Bank, 2004. "Colombia : The Role of Land in Involuntary Displacement," World Bank Other Operational Studies 11280, The World Bank.
    9. repec:cup:apsrev:v:100:y:2006:i:03:p:429-447_06 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:03:p:567-576_10 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Christopher Blattman & Edward Miguel, 2009. "Civil War: A Review of Fifty Years of Research," Working Papers id:2231, eSocialSciences.
    2. Yuri M. Zhukov, 2014. "Theory of Indiscriminate Violence," Working Paper 365551, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    3. Christopher Blattman & Edward Miguel, 2010. "Civil War," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(1), pages 3-57, March.
    4. Luis Eduardo Sandoval & Sandra Liliana Botón & María Irma Botero, 2011. "Educación, desigualdad y desplazamiento forzado en Colombia," REVISTA FACULTAD DE CIENCIAS ECONÓMICAS, UNIVERSIDAD MILITAR NUEVA GRANADA, June.

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