Thorsten Rogall, University of British Columbia

"The Legacy of Political Mass Killings: Evidence from the Rwandan Genocide"


We study how political mass killings affect later economic performance, using data from the Rwandan Genocide. To establish causality, we exploit two sources of exogenous village level variation in violence: a) variation in village reception of a state-sponsored radio station (RTLM) that incited killings of the ethnic Tutsi minority population (Yanagizawa-Drott, 2014) and b) variation in armed groups’ transport costs that affected the number of army and militiamen arriving in each village (Rogall, 2017). RTLM-induced violence was local, committed with low-technology weapons; external armed groups lead to large-scale violence. We find that a) households in villages with local violence have higher living standards six years after the genocide. They enjoy higher levels of consumption, own more assets, and output per capita from agricultural production is higher. These results are consistent with the Malthusian hypothesis that mass killings can raise living standards by reducing the population size and redistributing productive assets from the deceased to the survivors. b) In households that experienced large-scale violence the Malthusian channel does not outweigh the negative effects of looting and physical capital destruction. While households do own more land per capita, they also own significantly fewer other assets, in particular livestock and we find evidence that agricultural output and income are lower. However, for both cases further analysis suggests that these effects are likely temporary and may disappear in the future.