How Government Reactions to Violence Worsen Social Welfare:
Evidence from Peru
Sexton, Renard, Rachel Wellhausen, and Michael G. Findley. 2019. "How Government Reactions to Violence Worsen Social Welfare: Evidence from Peru." American Journal of Political Science 63(2): 353-367.
Abstract: Dissident violence inflicts many costs on society, but some of the longest-lasting consequences for civilians may be indirect, due to the government’s response. We explore how government policy responses affect social welfare, specifically through budgetary shifts. Using subnational violence and budgeting data for Peru, we demonstrate that attacks on soldiers during the budget negotiation period drive a shift from local social services, especially health, to defense. One soldier fatality implies a 0.13 percentage point reduction in the local health budget share (2008–12). Health budget cuts due to a single soldier fatality result in 76 predicted additional infant deaths 2 years later. We show that the effect on health budgeting operates through decreases in women’s use of health facilities and postnatal services. We offer evidence that Peru’s coercive response indirectly harms civilians due to butter-to-guns budgetary shifts. Our results identify a budgetary mechanism that translates dissident violence into a deterioration in social welfare.