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Risk Tolerance during Conflict: Evidence from Aleppo, Syria


When war breaks out, how important are risk preferences to explaining why some individuals stay in conflict zones while others take flight? We examine risk tolerance among rebel combatants and civilians in Aleppo, Syria using a variation of the Eckel-Grossman Choice Game. Field work in Syria was conducted in 2013–14 with a total of 232 participants to include both Syrian civilians and active rebel fighters in Aleppo and Idlib Province, as well as among Syrian refugees in neighboring Turkey. Compared to Syrians in other locations, people in rebel-held territory of Aleppo, both combatants and non-combatants, are significantly more risk tolerant. We consider possible explanations for elevated risk preferences in Aleppo based on self-selection, adaptive learning, a sense of self-efficacy to affect future outcomes, conflict-related grievances, and in-group solidarity. Our analysis suggests that self-selection based on access to resources and a strong sense of self-efficacy may explain higher propensity for risk-taking. Overall, our results speak to a plausible sorting mechanism during conflict where risk averse individuals select out of conflict, while highly risk tolerant individuals are more prone to discount the inherent dangers of remaining in conflict zones. Our results provide new micro-level explanation for why some societies become mired in conflict traps involving highly risk tolerant fighting communities.

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Mironova, Vera, Loubna Mrie, and Sam Whitt. 2019. "Risk Tolerance during Conflict: Evidence from Aleppo, Syria." Journal of Peace Research (April). https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0022343318824632

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