NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Violence and the Formation of Hopelessness and Pessimistic Prospects of Upward Mobility in Colombia

Andrés Moya, Michael Carter

NBER Working Paper No. 20463
Issued in September 2014, Revised in February 2018
NBER Program(s):Development Economics

We explore the impact of violence on perceived prospects of upward mobility. For a sample of victims of violence in Colombia, we bring together data on expected upward mobility, exposure to violence, and symptoms of psychological trauma. After controlling for material losses and current circumstances, we find that exposure to more severe violence leads victims’ perceived prospects of upward mobility to become increasingly hopeless. The estimated impacts are large: victims exposed to more severe violence expect that the likelihood of being in extreme poverty in the long-run is more than two times as high than those exposed to less severe violence. Additional evidence indicates that depression and psychological trauma mediate this result, identifying a channel by which these pessimistic expectations can become self-confirming. Together, these findings suggest the existence of a psychological poverty trap and the need to rethink strategies to assist the economic recovery of the victims of violence.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20463

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