The long-term effects of war exposure on civic engagement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What are the legacies of war exposure on civic engagement? Recent evidence suggests that domestic war may have short-term effects on participation in social organizations. Yet, it is unclear whether these effects will be present in internationalized conflicts and persist over long periods of time. Further, the pathways of persistence by which war exposure leads to greater civic engagement in the long term are even less understood. In this paper, I contribute to both questions using unique evidence from the Vietnam War. Empirically, I combine a unique US military dataset containing bombing intensity with respondents' wartime place of residence to generate an objective indicator of conflict intensity. Then, I exploit the distance to the arbitrarily drawn border at the 17th parallel as an instrument for conflict intensity. The results show that individuals who lived in a province heavily affected by the conflict during the war tend to be more engaged in social organizations and hold greater expressive values, at least 26 y later. Further, I empirically explore the mechanisms of persistence. The empirical evidence suggests that both persistence within individuals and community-wide transmission jointly account for the long-term increase of civic engagement after conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2015539118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 9 2021


  • Civic engagement
  • Conflict
  • Historical legacies
  • Vietnam War

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'The long-term effects of war exposure on civic engagement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this