This project, supported by the Minerva Research Initiative and the Army Research Office, seeks to understand how persons displaced by conflict make decisions to return home or to resettle elsewhere, and the consequences for political stability and reconstruction.
We have little well-developed theory and few well-established findings on the determinants of when, where, and why individuals displaced by conflict decide to return home or settle elsewhere. This limits our understanding of how population displacement, resettlement, and return affect longer-term peacebuilding and post-war recovery efforts in conflict zones. Our project focuses on what happens after armed conflict has produced displacement. We examine (1) what factors lead displaced persons to return home, remain displaced, or resettle elsewhere, and (2) the consequences of these population movements for peace-building and stabilization in countries that have experienced civil war.
We develop new theory to explain settlement decisions. Work in the tradition of “push” and “pull” factors usefully identifies how social networks, security, and economic opportunities lead displaced individuals to prefer one destination over another. But displaced persons’ preferences are not static or uniform; they are shaped, in part, by their experience of violence during wartime displacement. Furthermore, focusing on the preferences of displaced persons overlooks the dynamic environment in which they make decisions and the interests and policies of other actors. Governments and armed non-state actors have preferences over the scale and social identity of those who might return to or resettle in their jurisdictions. Decisions about return and resettlement are thus also the result of strategic interactions between the displaced, government authorities, and armed non-state actors.
We draw on psychological research on the social and political consequences of conflict to understand how the experience of wartime violence shapes displaced persons willingness to live alongside and collaborate with members of in-groups and out-groups. We build on principal-agent theory to better understand how credible commitments shape patterns of population return and resettlement, and advance the literature on post-war peacebuilding by focusing on how patterns of population movement are key drivers of sub-national resilience and stability in cities and urban areas.
To assess our hypotheses, we analyze a broad range of data from surveys and field experiments, and observational data incorporating administrative, event, and remote sensing information. The project is based on a micro-level data collection effort that seeks to address challenges in describing and quantifying resettlement and return, peacebuilding, and stabilization.
James Igoe Walsh of the University of North Carolina serves as principal investigator; co-principal investigators are Paul Huth (University of Maryland), Jonathan Hall (Uppsala University), Abbey Steele (Amsterdam University), and Jean-Claude Thill (University of North Carolina at Charlotte).