Illuminating the Economic Costs of Conflict: A Night Light Analysis of the Sri Lankan Civil War

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2023-07-29

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This paper investigates the economic consequences of the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009) by using event-based data on civilian and combatant fatalities in addition to night light imagery as a proxy for economic activity. By looking at regional economic activity across the island of Sri Lanka, this paper seeks to identify how violence led to declines or undershoots of economic activity in the areas in which it was most prevalent. The use of night light data gives a hyper-localized proxy measurement of this activity for each year of the war. The investigation finds that government and rebel deaths have strong, negative effects on economic activity, and that these effects spill over across time and space. Additionally, the manner in which civilian deaths occur is an important determinant of their subsequent economic impact. The paper offers new findings on the economic legacy of the Sri Lankan Civil War and extends existing work on the use of night light data to measure economic activity during conflict.

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Wijesekera, Nicholas (2023). Illuminating the Economic Costs of Conflict: A Night Light Analysis of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/29010.


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