Civil violence is seemingly endemic to the contemporary world, and no region is immune. In the Americas, guerilla warfare surged in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the 1980s and continues today in Colombia. In Europe, waves of violence have washed over the Balkans and former Soviet Republics, while Africa has been repeatedly stained by bloody conflicts in places such as Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Congo, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. In Asia, violence has erupted in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, and parts of China. All these conflicts have produced significant displacements of people, both within and across national borders. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, at the end of 2007, the number of forced migrants included 11.4 million external refugees and 13.7 million internally displaced persons (UNHCR 2008
A number of aggregate-level studies have examined the effect of violence on migration and have generally found a strong connection between the two, though debate remains about whether the effect is direct or indirect. In his analysis of emigration from El Salvador to the United States, Jones (1989)
concluded that the effect was indirect, with violence producing local economic dislocations that, in turn, led to emigration. Likewise, Morrison and May (1994)
found that conflict-related economic turmoil was more important than violence in predicting out-migration between provinces in Guatemala. Schultz (1971)
also found that rural violence was significant in predicting migration to Colombian cities, though its effect was small compared with other socioeconomic and demographic variables. Stanley (1987)
found that military sweeps rather than killings per se were more strongly associated with variations in the flow of undocumented migrants from El Salvador to the United States.
Most other aggregate-level studies have discerned a direct connection between violence and migration, however. Shellman and Stewart (2007)
, for example, found that trends in Haitian emigration to the United States were strongly predicted by surges in political violence, even after the influence of economic conditions was held constant. Morrison (1993)
likewise found that out-migration between provinces in Guatemala was strongly predicted by violence as well as economic conditions, and Morrison and Perez Lafaurie (1994)
obtained similar results in Colombia. Morrison (1993)
noted an apparent threshold effect in the relationship between violence and internal migration in Guatemala, such that the likelihood of movement increased only once violence reached a certain level, suggesting that at low to modest levels of violence, people may feel safer remaining in their own homes.
In addition to the foregoing country studies, cross-national comparative analyses also suggest a direct connection between violence and migration. A pooled time-series analysis by Schmeidl (1997)
found that violence predicts international refugee flows more strongly than national economic conditions, and the fixed-effects model of Davenport et al. (2003)
revealed that genocide, political violence, and civil war each strongly predicted refugee migration independent of economic circumstances. Another study by Moore and Shellman (2006)
found that state violence toward civilians tended to produce international refugees, whereas high levels of dissident violence and civil warfare tended to produce internally displaced people (IDPs). Melander and Öberg (2007)
have suggested that migration is more a product of the geographic scope of violence and the extent to which it touches urban areas rather than its intensity. In her review of the macro-level literature, Schmeidl (2001
:85) concluded “that refugee flows are affected by state implosions and/or the formation of new states, genocidal violence, and internal struggles (particularly those fueled by foreign military interventions).”
In contrast to the relative abundance of aggregate studies, few analyses have examined the connection between violence and migration at the individual or household level. In their survey of displaced and nondisplaced persons in Colombia in 2000, Engel and Ibáñez (2007)
found that the threat of violence and the presence of paramilitary and guerilla groups were strongly associated with out-migration, and Ibáñez and Vélez (2008)
demonstrated that these associations hold up well under a variety of controls. Lundquist and Massey (2005)
undertook an event history analysis of out-migration from households surveyed in Nicaragua and found that violence during the U.S.-sponsored Contra War strongly predicted out-migration to the United States, whereas conflict-related economic distress promoted migration to neighboring Costa Rica. Alvarado and Massey (2010)
showed that Nicaraguan migration to the United States also rose in response to increases in lethal violence that accompanied the imposition of structural economic adjustment policies during the 1990s. In Mexico and Costa Rica, however, they found that the increases in lethal violence were more modest and were generally associated with a lower probability of emigration to the United States.
Research to this point thus suggests a clear connection between civil violence and migration, though the degree to which this association is mediated through the effect of violence on economic conditions is unclear. Also unclear is whether the effects of violence are similar for short- and long-distance moves and for internal versus international movement. Furthermore, only a few studies to date have examined the influence of violence on microlevel decision-making, and no study has yet considered the determinants of forced migration at multiple levels. Finally, it is unclear whether the influence of violence is characterized by threshold effects, such that rising violence induces movements only above a certain point, and below that violence might actually reduce the odds of movement.
In this article, we seek to rectify these shortcomings in the existing literature, although we are unable to test whether the effects of conflict are direct or indirect because this exercise would require time-varying measures of economic conditions, and our economic measures are static. Using fixed economic conditions as controls, we undertake a systematic event history analysis of how violence unleashed during Nepal’s Maoist insurgency of 1996–2006 affected the likelihood that people moved locally, internally, or internationally, holding constant other individual and household characteristics. Nepal offers a good test case for estimating the influence of violence on migration because its insurgency lasted a full decade, during which the scope and intensity of the conflict fluctuated considerably to produce substantial variation in the variable of interest.
Our study improves on existing research in several ways. First, we consider competing geographic destinations in the same model. To date, most studies have either modeled the movement of refugees internationally (see Apodaca 1998
; Iqbal 2007
; Schmeidl 1997
; and Shellman and Stewart 2007
) or focused on internal displacements (see Ibáñez and Vélez 2008
; Morrison 1993
; Morrison and Perez Lafaurie 1994
; Schultz 1971
). Relatively few studies have considered both kinds of migration at the same time (see Davenport et al. 2003
; Melander and Öberg 2007
; Moore and Shellman 2004
), and so far, none have distinguished between local and long-distance internal moves. Our analysis also controls for the effects of human capital, social capital, physical capital, and demographic characteristics because these factors are expected to continue to promote voluntary migration even during periods of civil conflict. Following Schmeidl (1997)
and Clark (1989)
, we predict the odds of migration by considering the determinants of migration classified into one of three basic categories: root causes, proximate causes, and intervening factors.
We begin with a brief history of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, followed by an introduction to the study site and its connection to the conflict. We then describe the multilevel longitudinal survey from which we take our data. After presenting the analytic model and discussing how we operationalize key variables, we offer new findings about how violence affects migration to local, internal, and international destinations and draw relevant theoretical, substantive, and policy conclusions.