War Does not Foster Cooperation when Neoclassical Mechanisms are Absent! Evidence from a Natural Experiment among Turkish Conscripts
Exploiting a natural experiment and an innovative survey design, we study the social and political legacies of armed conflict exposure (ACE) among Turkish conscripts. Our empirical framework identifies the causal impact and the mediating pathways for the average male randomly picked from the population. Contrary to the arguments that ACE fosters prosociality and posttraumatic growth, we find little evidence that ACE promotes cooperative behaviors. As the study design eliminates the need for social insurance, security concerns, and community-level paradigm shifts, and our analysis rules out labor market outcomes from the list of the usual suspects, we conclude that violence exposure may not be sufficient to foster prosociality in the absence of favorable neoclassical mediating pathways boosting demand for cooperation. Moreover, we show that intense ACE increases opposition to peaceful means of conflict resolution and animosity towards minorities and promotes the tendency to support right-wing political parties. Auxiliary analysis nominates war-driven grievances and the normalization of violence in everyday life as the likely explanations. These findings are consistent with (i) evolutionary theories linking war exposure to out-group derogation and adherence to local social norms and (ii) the arguments that war-driven grievances may lead to the perpetuation of violence.
This study is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (EXPOVIBE-ERC-STG-2015_677627). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.