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14:00 | Applied Micro Research Seminar

Michela Giorcelli (University of California) "The Economics of Civilian Victimization: Evidence from World War II Italy"

Prof. Michela Giorcelli

University of California - Los Angeles, United States

Authors: Michela Giorcelli, Mattia Bertazzini

Abstract: We study the micro-level determinants of civilian victimization. We use evidence from the Italian Campaign in World War II (July 1943 - May 1945), when Allied forces slowly pushed Axis troops North along the Italian peninsula. We exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the position and time of activation of 32 front lines that affected both the potential returns to civilian victimization, due to increased insecurity for Axis troops, and its cost, resulting from decreased accountability. In a stacked difference-in-differences framework, we compare treated municipalities that fell into the combat zone on the day of activation of each front line (within 40km of the front line on the German side) with comparison municipalities that either remained far from the front line or stayed in the combat zone. We find that the likelihood of episodes of indiscriminate violence (collective civilian killings) increased 10-fold upon front activation. By contrast, the likelihood of selective individual killings did not change. The effect is concentrated in areas away from division headquarters, tasked with policing soldiers, while locations more exposed to allied bombing and partisan resistance show relatively low levels of indiscriminate violence. We interpret this evidence as suggestive of an accountability mechanism that fostered indiscriminate violence through a reduction in the cost of misbehavior.

JEL Classification: D74, D74, D90, N44
Keywords: civilian killings, violence, WWII, Italy

Full Text: The Economics of Civilian Victimization:Evidence from World War II Italy