Long-run Effects of Forced Resettlement: Evidence from Apartheid South Africa

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Abstract:

In an attempt to divide and marginalize the black opposition, the apartheid regime forcefully relocated some 3.5 million South Africans to rural homelands. Using newly geocoded data to explore long-term effects of what is considered one of history's largest social engineering exercises, I show that former resettlement communities have higher levels of social capital than surrounding communities as measured by levels of trust and crime. Effects are larger for people born after 1975 who did not witness the forced removals suggesting that effects persist and are not the result of the act of resettlement. Exploring causal mechanisms, I document that resettlement areas are more ethnically diverse and that diversity is positively correlated with measures of social capital only in areas affected by relocation. The formation of new support networks and adoption of a shared identity as displaced people may explain why relocation communities have higher levels of social capital despite potential short-term conflict over resources. These findings are important as solidarity among surpressed people is believed to be a critical factor in explaining the demise of the apartheid regime.

Last updated on 10/17/2016