Free DP Download 17 October 2020 - APOCALYPSE CONTINUED: The Devastating Legacy of the Secret War in Laos

Saturday, October 17, 2020

APOCALYPSE CONTINUED: The Devastating Legacy of the Secret War in Laos
Juan Felipe Riaño, Felipe Valencia Caicedo  
CEPR DP No. 15349 | October 2020

As part of its Cold War counterinsurgency operations in Southeast Asia, the United States government conducted a ‘Secret War’ in Laos from 1964-1973. This war constituted one of the most intensive bombing campaigns in human history. As a result, Laos is now severely contaminated with UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) and remains one of the poorest countries in the world. 

A new CEPR paper by Juan Felipe Riaño, Felipe Valencia Caicedo reveals the severe negative long-term impact of conflict on economic development, using newly available data on bombing campaigns, satellite imagery and development outcomes. Among the findings: 

  • There is a strong negative, significant and economically meaningful impact of bombings on night time lights, expenditures and poverty rates. 
  • Almost 50 years after the conflict officially ended, bombed regions are poorer today and are growing at slower rates than unbombed areas. 
  • A one standard deviation increase in the total pounds of bombs dropped is associated with a 9.3% fall in GDP per capita. 

These results highlight the huge impact of UXOs in terms of health, as well as education, structural transformation and rural-urban migration.

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