Reexamining the Effect of Refugees on Civil Conflict: A Global Subnational Analysis
By Yang-Yang Zhou, University of British Columbia, Canada and Andrew Shaver, University of California, Merced, United States
A large literature suggests that the presence of refugees is associated with greater risk of conflict. We argue that the positive effects of hosting refugees on local conditions have been overlooked. Using global data from 1990 to 2018 on locations of refugee communities and civil conflict at the subnational level, we find no evidence that hosting refugees increases the likelihood of new conflict, prolongs existing conflict, or raises the number of violent events or casualties. Furthermore, we explore conditions where provinces are likely to experience substantively large decreases in conflict risk due to increased development. Analysis examining nighttime lights as a measure of development, coupled with expert interviews, support our claim. To address the possibility of selection bias, we use placebo tests and matching. Our research challenges assertions that refugees are security risks. Instead, we show that in many cases, hosting refugees can encourage local development and even conflict reduction.