Rainfall and Conflict: A Cautionary Tale


Sarsons H. Rainfall and Conflict: A Cautionary Tale. Journal of Development Economics [Internet]. 2015;115 (July) :62-72.


There is evidence that, in some contexts, income shocks cause conflict. The literature demonstrating this relationship uses rainfall shocks to instrument for income shocks, arguing that in agriculturally-dependent regions, negative rain shocks lower income which incites violence. This identification strategy relies on the assumption that rainfall shocks affect conflict only through their impacts on income. This paper evaluates this exclusion restriction in the context of religious conflict in India. Using data on dam construction, I identify districts that are downstream from irrigation dams and show that income in these areas is much less sensitive to rainfall fluctuations. However, rain shocks remain equally strong predictors of riot incidence in these districts. I explore other channels through which rainfall might affect conflict.

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Last updated on 11/10/2015