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Research Seminar Series (RSS)

The Industrial Organization of Rebellion: The Logic of Forced Labor and Child Soldiering

Friday, April 23, 2010 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

On Friday, April 23, 2010, The Center for Global Development and The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies co-hosted a Massachusetts Avenue Development Seminar (MADS)* on The Industrial Organization of Rebellion: The Logic of Forced Labor and Child Soldiering featuring Christopher Blattman of Yale University. James Habyarimana, Georgetown University, served as the discussant. 

Paper abstract: We investigate one of the world's most pernicious forms of exploitation: child soldiering. Most theories can be captured by a principal-agent model that incorporates punishments, indoctrination, and age-varying productivity. For rebel leaders, we show it is almost always optimal to coerce rather than reward children, and that leaders will tend to forcibly recruit children when punishment and supervision are cheap, when children's outside options are poor, and when rebel leaders are resource-constrained. To see which mechanisms dominate in practice, we interview and survey former members of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, who provide a cruel natural experiment that reveals how children and adults respond to coercive incentives. The evidence suggests that children are more easily indoctrinated and disoriented than adults, but are less effective guerrillas; hence the optimal targets of coercion are young adolescents. We confirm predications of the model on a new "cross-rebel" dataset and suggest policy solutions. 

Read paper.

*The Massachusetts Avenue Development Seminar (MADS) series is an effort by the Center for Global Development and The Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies to take advantage of the incredible concentration of great international development scholars in the Metro Washington, DC area. The series seeks to bring together members of this community and improve communication between them.

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