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The Industrial Organization of Rebellion: The Logic of Forced Labor and Child Soldiering

  • Bernd Beber

    ()

    (New York University)

  • Christopher Blattman

    ()

    (Yale University)

We investigate one of the world’s most pernicious forms of exploitation: child soldiering. Most theories can be captured by a principal-agent model that incorporates punishments, indoctrination, and age-varying productivity. For rebel leaders, we show it is almost always optimal to coerce rather than reward children, and that leaders will tend to forcibly recruit children when punishment and supervision are cheap, when children’s outside options are poor, and when rebel leaders are resource-constrained. To see which mechanisms dominate in practice, we interview and survey former members of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, who provide a cruel natural experiment that reveals how children and adults respond to coercive incentives. The evidence suggests that children are more easily indoctrinated and disoriented than adults, but are less effective guerrillas; hence the optimal targets of coercion are young adolescents. We confirm predications of the model on a new “cross-rebel” dataset and suggest policy solutions.

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Paper provided by Households in Conflict Network in its series HiCN Working Papers with number 72.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:72
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.hicn.org

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Alexander Wolitzky, 2011. "The Economics of Labor Coercion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(2), pages 555-600, 03.
  2. Carol Rogers & Kenneth A. Swinnerton, 2002. "A Theory of Exploitative Child Labor," Working Papers gueconwpa~02-02-03, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
  3. Eric Edmonds, 2007. "Child Labor," Working Papers id:988, eSocialSciences.
  4. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2005. "Identity and the Economics of Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 9-32, Winter.
  5. Findlay, Ronald, 1975. "Slavery, Incentives, and Manumission: A Theoretical Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(5), pages 923-33, October.
  6. Fenoaltea, Stefano, 1984. "Slavery and Supervision in Comparative Perspective: A Model," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(03), pages 635-668, September.
  7. Michelle R. Garfinkel, 2003. "On the Stability of Group Formation: Managing the Conflict Within," Public Economics 0312005, EconWPA, revised 04 Mar 2004.
  8. Christopher Blattman & Jeannie Annan, 2010. "The Consequences of Child Soldiering," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 882-898, November.
  9. Jean-Paul Azam, 2006. "On thugs and heroes: Why warlords victimize their own civilians," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 53-73, 01.
  10. Basu, Kaushik, 1998. "Child labor : cause, consequence, and cure, with remarks on International Labor Standards," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2027, The World Bank.
  11. Jonathan Conning & Michael Kevane, 2005. "Freedom, Servitude and Voluntary Contract," Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College 408, Hunter College Department of Economics.
  12. Eric V. Edmonds & Nina Pavcnik, 2005. "Child Labor in the Global Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 199-220, Winter.
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