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The Demand for the State: Evidence from Past and Present

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM (PST)

Manchester Grand Hyatt, Harbor D
Hosted By: Association for Comparative Economic Studies
  • Chair: Noam Yuchtman, London School of Economics and Political Science

In Vaccines We Trust? The Effects of the CIA’s Vaccine Ruse on Immunization in Pakistan

Andreas Stegmann
Briq Institute on Behavior and Inequality


In July 2011, the Pakistani public unexpectedly learnt that the CIA had used a vaccination campaign as cover during the operations to locate and capture Osama Bin Laden. This episode lent credibility to conspiracy theories against vaccines that had been spread by the Taliban. We evaluate the effects of these events on immunization by implementing a Difference-in-Differences strategy across cohorts and regions. We find that vaccination rates declined 9 to 13% per standard deviation in support for Islamist parties. These results suggest that the disclosure of information discrediting vaccination campaigns can negatively affect trust in health services and demand for immunization.

Why Do People Join Armed Groups? Evidence of Parochial Altruism in Eastern Congo

Raul Sanchez de la Sierra
University of Chicago
David Qihang Wu
University of California-Berkeley


Criminal organizations rely on their ability to recruit labor. Fighters often take life-threatening risks and commit murder once they join. Why do people join armed groups? We gather a retrospective survey data set for 1,539 individuals in 239 villages in Eastern Congo and provide empirical evidence for the formation of a specific type of intrinsic motivation: individuals are more likely to take arms in militia when their household has been attacked by enemy armed groups. This effect is concentrated during security vacuum episodes induced by high-level military deployments and stronger when attacks are related to humiliation. We further provide evidence that this effect is not driven by wealth channel or protection channel. Despite the fact that participation leads to more wealth and lower likelihood of being attacked, controlling for current wealth proxies or insecurity proxies does not affect the main coefficients. Our results thus suggest fighters engage in life-threatening activities out of parochial altruism instead of extrinsic benefits of participation.

Institutional Adaptation to Environmental Change

Leander Heldring
Briq Institute on Behavior and Inequality


In this paper we show that states form to overcome the adverse effects of environmental change. In a panel dataset of settlement, state formation, and public good provision in southern Iraq between 5000BCE and today, we estimate the effect of a series of river shifts. We hypothesize that a river shift creates a collective action problem in communally organizing irrigation, and creates demand for a state. We show four main results. First, a river shift negatively affects settlement density, and therefore incentives canal irrigation. Second, a river shift leads to state formation, centralization of existing states, and the construction of administrative buildings. Third, these states raise taxes, and build canals to replace river irrigation. Finally, where canals are built, river shifts no longer negatively affect settlement. Our results support a social contract theory of state formation: citizens faced with a collective action problem exchange resources and autonomy for public good provision.
Mike Callen
University of California-San Diego
Ameet Morjaria
Northwestern University
David Schonholzer
Stockholm University
JEL Classifications
  • H1 - Structure and Scope of Government