Armed conflict exposure and trust: Evidence from a natural experiment in Turkey


We study the individual-level effects of exposure to internal armed conflict on social capital, focusing on trust in institutions and in social relations. We introduce new data from a large-N field survey we conducted in Turkey in 2019, exploiting a natural experimental setting that is created by the military institutions and the geography of the long running civil conflict in the country. This setting allows us to identify and analyze the causal impacts of conflict exposure on trust assessments of our respondents in isolation from possible confoundment by conflict-related changes in the socio-economic environment. Results indicate heterogenous effects depending on the type of exposure. We find that while exposure to the conflict environment increases trust, those who directly experience violent events in that environment exhibit lower levels of trust. We document that the results are comparable for two different dimensions of trust, namely institutional trust and social trust. We then show that the effects transmit through exposure-induced changes in an individual’s worldviews. Our results highlight the legacies of internal conflicts on beliefs and behavior.

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