How war-related deprivation affects political participation: Evidence from education loss in Liberia

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How does civil war affect citizen engagement with democracy? Civilians who live through warfare face numerous disruptions to everyday life that can have permanent effects on political engagement even after peace is achieved. This article analyzes the role of depressed living standards resulting from education loss during the Liberia Civil War as a case study of war-related deprivation. I argue that the negative effects of war on education and economic outcomes clash with the expectations that citizens have for postwar democracy, with adverse consequences for political participation. I demonstrate support for this argument using a mixed methods approach, combining qualitative interviews with census, voting, and Afrobarometer survey data. I leverage a difference-in-differences identification strategy to causally identify the negative impact of conflict on human capital for a generation of young adults, and on the downstream consequences of disruptions in education on political participation. Results indicate that children who were of school age during the civil war are differentially less likely to have any formal schooling by the end of the war. I further find that educational deficiencies disproportionately decrease postwar job prospects, breeding resentment against the newly elected government. This extends to political participation: those who lost out on educational opportunities due to war exhibit lower political engagement and less desire to engage with democratic processes.





conflict, deprivation, education, political participation, reconstruction


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Liu, SX (2022). How war-related deprivation affects political participation: Evidence from education loss in Liberia. Journal of Peace Research, 59(3). pp. 353–366. 10.1177/00223433211019460 Retrieved from

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Shelley Liu

Assistant Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy

Shelley Liu is an assistant professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy. Her primary research and teaching focuses on issues relating to conflict, development, and state-building in fragile political contexts. Her ongoing research projects examine (1) how war shapes politics and development, (2) citizen agency in state legibility projects, and (3) the determinants of polarization, politicization, and disengagement.  Liu's research has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Peace Research, PLOS ONE, Political Science Research and Methods, Politics & Society, and World Politics. 

Prior to joining Duke faculty, Liu was an assistant professor at UC Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy. She holds a PhD in government from Harvard University (2020). 

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