RESEARCH PAPER SERIES
Veterans, Organizational Skill and Ethnic Cleansing: Evidence from the Partition of South Asia Saumitra Jha Stanford GSB Steven Wilkinson∗ Yale University
January 16, 2012
Abstract Can combat experience foster organizational skills that engender political collective action? We use the arbitrary assignment of troops to frontline combat in World War 2 to identify the eﬀect of combat experience on two channels that change local ethnic composition and future political control: ethnic cleansing and co-ethnic immigration. During the Partition of South Asia in 1947, an environment where national borders were themselves endogenous to ethnic composition, we ﬁnd that ethnically mixed districts whose veterans gained more combat experience exhibit greater co-ethnic immigration and ethnic cleansing. However, where ethnic groups had been in complementary economic roles or the minority received greater combat experience, there was relatively less minority ethnic cleansing. We interpret these results as reﬂecting the substitute roles of ethnic cleansing and co-ethnic immigration in altering local ethnic composition to gain political control and the role of combat experience in enhancing organizational skill that facilitates political collective action. Keywords: Veterans, Organization, Public Goods, Endogenous Borders, Conﬂict, Genocide, Civil War, Partition, Post-conﬂict reconstruction, Ethnic cleansing, Institutional change
Shocks that enable non-elite groups to organize and credibly threaten violence fundamentally drive institutional change in many of the most inﬂuential theories of politics and development. The role of shocks to the organizational abilities of disenfranchised groups has long featured prominently in theories of democratization in Europe (Boix, 2003, Acemoglu and Robinson, 2000, North, Wallis and Weingast, 2009), broader political revolutions (Engels and Marx, 1848, Acemoglu and Robinson, Emails:firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We owe particular thanks to Prashant Bharadwaj, Asim Khwaja and Atif Mian for helpful comments and for generously sharing their data. We are also grateful to the Editors, three anonymous referees, Daron Acemoglu, Chris Blattman, Glenn Carroll, Avner Greif, Donald Horowitz, John Huber, Kimuli Kasara, Keith Krehbiel, Katrina Kosec, Barry Posen, Bethany Lacina, Alex Lee, Jessica Leino, Aprajit Mahajan, Karthik Muralidharan, Dilip Mookherjee, Paul Niehaus, Biju Rao, Huggy Rao, Jacob Shapiro, Ken Shotts, Emmanuel Teitelbaum, Ashutosh Varshney and seminar participants at BREAD-Trento, NEUDC, SITE, the University of Chicago conference on Partitions, Brown, Columbia, the Delhi School of Economics, Oxford, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, UCSD and Yale for very useful suggestions. Cameron Ballard-Rosa, Emma Alexander, Jessica Lei, Mona Mehta and Ravi Pillai provided excellent research assistance. ∗
2005), as well as less dramatic shifts such as progressive taxation and changes in the identity of those in power. However, measuring the eﬀects of providing organizational skills in mobilization and violence to large numbers of de facto disenfranchised people has hitherto proven diﬃcult. A related puzzle is to understand the long-term eﬀects of warfare on institutional development. A growing body of cross-country evidence suggests that a range of important political and institutional changes, including democratization and progressive taxation, have followed war and violent external threats. For example, Scheve and Stasavage (2010) compare states that fought in World War I to those that did not and show diﬀerences in the subsequent progressivity of taxation.1 Similarly, examining a historical panel of all...