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

Author

Listed:
  • Bernd Beber

    () (New York University)

  • Christopher Blattman

    () (Yale University)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Bernd Beber & Christopher Blattman, 2010. "The Industrial Organization of Rebellion: The Logic of Forced Labor and Child Soldiering," HiCN Working Papers 72, Households in Conflict Network.
  • Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:72
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Edmonds, Eric V., 2008. "Child Labor," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
    2. Carol Ann Rogers & Kenneth A. Swinnerton, 2008. "A theory of exploitative child labor," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 20-41, January.
    3. 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.
    4. Kaushik Basu, 1999. "Child Labor: Cause, Consequence, and Cure, with Remarks on International Labor Standards," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1083-1119, September.
    5. 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.
    6. Findlay, Ronald, 1975. "Slavery, Incentives, and Manumission: A Theoretical Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(5), pages 923-933, October.
    7. 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.
    8. Michelle R. Garfinkel, 2004. "On the Stability of Group Formation: Managing the Conflict Within," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 21(1), pages 43-68, February.
    9. Daron Acemoglu & Alexander Wolitzky, 2011. "The Economics of Labor Coercion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(2), pages 555-600, March.
    10. Jonathan Conning & Michael Kevane, 2005. "Freedom, Servitude and Voluntary Contract," Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College 408, Hunter College Department of Economics.
    11. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jean-Paul Azam & Kartika Bhatia, 2017. "Provoking insurgency in a federal state: theory and application to India," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 170(3), pages 183-210, March.
    2. Ahmed Mahmud & Juan Vargas, 2011. "Combatant recruitment and the outcome of war," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 51-74, March.
    3. Jeannie Annan & Christopher Blattman & Dyan Mazurana & Khristopher Carlson, 2009. "Women and Girls at War: Wives , Mothers, and Fighters in the Lord s Resistance Army," HiCN Working Papers 63, Households in Conflict Network.
    4. Christopher Blattman & Edward Miguel, 2010. "Civil War," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(1), pages 3-57, March.

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