Forced displacement and behavioral change: An empirical study of returnee households in the Nuba Mountains


Year: 2013 HiCN Working Paper No. 157

After the end of a civil war that lasted for more than two decades, in 2005 hundreds of thousands of displaced people started returning to their communities of origin in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. We use unique data gathered shortly after the end of the conflict in eight villages to describe the characteristics of the returnees vis-a-vis those of non-displaced households. We find important differences between them. Returned households have fewer assets than those who stayed during the conflict and are less involved in the production of cash crops. Even though returnees seem to face worse economic conditions, we find evidence that they tend to perform better on different health indicators, including a lower probability of disease-related mortality in their families. We explore the hypothesis that behavioral changes related to the experiences during displacement can explain the latter result. In particular, we use a detailed set of variables related to hygiene and sanitary habits and show that returnees are more likely to adopt these measures. We further attempt to provide causal evidence of this hypothesis using instrumental variable estimations as a way to deal with the potential bias induced by self-selection into displacement and return.

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