Discussion paper

DP11897 The Peace Dividend of Distance: Violence as Interaction Across Space

More distant targets are harder to attack, and hence increased distance between potential attackers and potential targets may drive down the death toll of conflict. To investigate this, the current paper studies violence as interaction across space, i.e. it separates the origin from the target of attacks. We show that a game-theoretic model based on the idea that distance matters can deliver new insights into understanding the causes, the extent and the distribution of violence. Key factors are the transport costs of violence and the distribution of the groups across locations. To estimate the structural parameters of the model, we use very fine-grained data from Northern Ireland on religious composition at each location, and on the identity of attackers and victims in violent events from 1969 to 2001. Using these estimates we show that more than half of the attacks in Northern Ireland were conducted across administrative ward boundaries and that changes in the settlement patterns of the population from the 1970s to the 1980s could be responsible for a large reduction in violence. We find that both the origin and path of attacks can be predicted with our model and that the construction of barriers by the UK government follows these predictions.


Rohner, D, H Mueller and D Schönholzer (2017), ‘DP11897 The Peace Dividend of Distance: Violence as Interaction Across Space‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 11897. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp11897