The Human Capital Consequences of Civil War: Evidence from Guatemala

Year: 2009 HiCN Working Paper No. 059

We combine data from the 2002 National Population Census and the distribution of the number of victims and human rights violations across 22 departments to examine how the worst period of the civil war in Guatemala, between 1979 and 1984, affected human capital accumulation. The year of birth and the department of birth jointly determine an individual’s exposure to the worst period of the civil war. Specifically, the identification strategy exploits variation in the war’s intensity across departments and which cohorts were school age during the war. We find a strong negative impact of the civil war on female education, with exposed girls completing 0.44 years less schooling than non-exposed girls. Given an average of 3.65 years of schooling for females, this represents a 12 percent decline. This impact is stronger for older female cohorts exposed to the war, who completed 0.64 years less schooling, a decline of 17 percent. Older males exposed to the war were less likely to complete grades 7 to 12. However, older females exposed to the war experienced a larger decline in completing grades 4 to 12. These effects are robust to the inclusion of indicators for department of residence, year of birth, and controls for differential trends in human development in war affected and peaceful departments of Guatemala.