Paper on state capacity, norms, and violence in Rwanda

This is a great job market paper by Oxford’s Leander Heldring. Here’s the abstract:

This paper studies the effect of state formation on violence, civil society and local government. I show that Rwandan villages that were brought under centralized rule one century earlier experience a doubling of violence during the state-organized 1994 genocide. In surrounding years however, with longer state presence, violence is lower. Instrumental variable estimates exploiting proximity to Nyanza – an early capital – establish the causality of these results. Using data from several sources, including a labin-the-field experiment, I provide evidence for rule following as a causal channel. As the state expanded above the village level, Rwandans shifted their allegiance from their kin group to the impersonal state. In a lab setting today, individuals close to an abandoned border of the historical state are more likely to follow an unenforced rule than individuals just across the border. The state’s impact on individual rule following led to more violence when the Rwandan government mobilized for mass killing and, by contrast, to less violence when the government pursued peace and rebuilding. These results suggest that the interaction of public policy with deep-rooted aspects of civil society has the potential to reconcile long-run persistence with rapid economic change


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