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.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.