DP8741 | Seeds of Distrust: Conflict in Uganda

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We study the effect of civil conflict on social capital, focusing on the experience of Uganda during the last decade. Using individual and county-level data, we document large causal effects on trust and ethnic identity of an exogenous outburst of ethnic conflicts in 2002-05. We exploit two waves of survey data from Afrobarometer 2000 and 2008, including information on socioeconomic characteristics at the individual level, and geo-referenced measures of fighting events from ACLED. Our identification strategy exploits variations in the intensity of fighting both in the spatial and cross-ethnic dimensions. We find that more intense fighting decreases generalized trust and increases ethnic identity. The effects are quantitatively large and robust to a number of control variables, alternative measures of violence, and different statistical techniques involving ethnic and spatial fixed effects and instrumental variables. We also document that the post-war effects of ethnic violence depend on the ethnic fractionalization. Fighting has a negative effect on the economic situation in highly fractionalized counties, but has no effect in less fractionalized counties. Our findings are consistent with the existence of a self-reinforcing process between conflicts and ethnic cleavages.