Conflict or Crime? How victimization shapes preferences for public goods provision in Liberia

"Conflict or Crime? How victimization shapes preferences for public goods provision in Liberia"

Sarah Berens (University of Cologne) and Sabrina Karim (Cornell University)


Citizens who have experienced civil conflict are often victims of both conflict related violence as well as crime. Yet, the literature often treats victimization homogeneously. The war victimization literature demonstrates that victimization leads to pro-social behavior, whereas the crime victimization literature is mixed on its effects on public goods preferences. Disaggregating victimization into separate categories, we argue that both types of victimization increase individuals' demands for public goods. Yet, while conflict victimization is linked to a collective experience, crime victimization is individual, and when it comes to the trade-off between social versus security policy preferences, we expect crime victims to place greater emphasis on law and order instruments. We analyze public goods preferences with original survey data from rural Liberia. Comparing the types of victimization, we find support for our argument that conflict victims are more supportive of social policies and basic public goods than crime victims who foremost value investment into security measures. Our results show the importance of a disaggregated approach to understanding the effects of violence.

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