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(When) Do Antipoverty Programs Reduce Violence? India's Rural Employment Guarantee and Maoist Conflict


Theory and extensive evidence connect poverty and underdevelopment to civil conflict yet evidence on the impact of development programs on violence is surprisingly mixed. To break this impasse, we exploit a within-country policy experiment to examine the conditions under which antipoverty programs reduce violence. The roll-out of India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme caused a large long-run reduction in Maoist conflict violence, as measured with an original data set based on local-language press sources. These pacifying effects were not uniform, however, but overwhelmingly concentrated in districts with sufficient pre-existing local state capacity to implement the program effectively. The results demonstrate the potential for anti-poverty programs to mitigate violent civil conflict by improving livelihoods, but also highlight the crucial role of state capacity in shaping these effects.

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