How do disasters affect intergroup peace and conflict? Existing research shows that disasters can have opposing effects on how we perceive others: they can exacerbate existing tension in some cases or serve as catalysts for peace and cooperation in others. Yet we know little about the conditions under which we should expect one or the other. In this study, we estimate the impact of disasters on perceptions of out-groups. We combine a dataset of mass disasters with tens of thousands of individual-level survey responses recorded in Round 6 of the Afrobarometer data between 2014 and 2015. Using a difference-in-differences approach exploiting spatial and temporal proximity to disaster occurrences, we estimate the degree to which disasters affect public opinion toward out-groups. As disaster occurrence is plausibly exogenous to interview dates or respondent locations, our approach allows for an improved test of how the shock from disaster can impact public perceptions. Moreover, we show such impact varies by considering the differences in political salience of out-group identities and short- versus long-term differences in the impact on group dynamics. The implications of our findings for understanding the aftermath of past disasters and effects of future disasters on intergroup peace and conflict are discussed.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.