Christopher Blattman, Jeannie Annan

Can Employment Reduce Lawlessness and Rebellion?

with Jeannie Annan

Can employment programs divert high-risk men from crime and violence?

Thirteen years after civil war in Liberia ended, thousands of ex-fighters still clustered in “hot spots” outside of state control, where they worked as mercenaries or conduct illegal activities. Recently, Christopher Blattman and Jeannie Annan conducted a field experiment to determine whether agricultural training and capital inputs could motivate these at-risk men to rejoin society and return to peaceful work. The study sheds insight into whether investments in employment programs can generate tangible returns in post-conflict societies.

Cultivating nonviolence
Working with Action on Armed Violence, Blattman and Annan recruited more than 1,100 high-risk men in 138 communities. Roughly half were offered a program consisting of several months of residential agricultural training, counseling and “life skills” classes, and receipt of farm inputs worth $125. Fourteen months later, a follow-up survey revealed that of the three quarters of program participants who complied, even the highest risk men were overwhelmingly interested in farming. Those who received training and capital inputs diverted approximately 20% of their labor output toward farming and away from illicit and mercenary activities—though none gave up these pursuits entirely. Further, those who received training but no capital inputs reduced illegal activities at an even higher rate in anticipation of future cash transfers.

Investing rare resources
This was one of the first empirical studies to consider the impact of a well-orchestrated demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR) program on high-risk men in a post-conflict environment. As such, insights can help states and agencies decide how to invest rare public resources.

Insight and resolution
Evidence suggests that high-risk men are willing to adjust their labor portfolios to include more peaceful work, especially when they receive ongoing and future incentives. Nevertheless, the benefits are not strong enough to turn swords into ploughshares. Ultimately, such programs in their present configurations do not influence existing peer relationships, hierarchical military relationships, aggression, social integration, or attitudes toward violence or democracy.

American Political Science Review (2016)

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