Monash University
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Three essays on the long-term effects of civil conflicts in Cambodia

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posted on 2017-03-01, 00:33 authored by Ouch, Chandarany
This dissertation presents three self-contained, but related, essays on the long-term effects of civil conflicts on individuals in Cambodia. The first essay examines the long-term effects of exposure to civil war from 1970 to 1975 and genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979 on the educational attainment and labor productivity of individuals in Cambodia. Given the well-documented causal links between schooling and labor productivity, it is surprising that past studies have shown that civil conflicts generally reduce the educational attainment but not the earnings of individuals. Using variation in the degree of Cambodians’ exposure to civil conflicts during primary school age, we find that disruption to primary education during civil conflicts decreases educational attainment and earnings, increases fertility, and has negligible effects on the health of individuals several decades later. Our findings suggest that the effect of conflict on schooling disruption has adverse consequences on long-term labor productivity and economic development. The second essay uses geographical variation in gender-differentiated mortality during the genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979 to study the effect of violent conflict on the educational and health outcomes of children born years after the conflict ended. We show that the adverse effects of violent conflict are transmitted from one generation to the next through its effect on the sex ratio and marriage outcomes of those who survived the conflict. We find that mortality rates under the Khmer Rouge regime predict a lower likelihood of normal grade progression and lower height-for-age Z-scores for children born to parents who were of prime marriage age (14–29) during the time that the Khmer Rouge was in power. Using mortality rates during the Khmer Rouge regime as an instrumental variable for the sex ratio, we find that the lower sex ratio in the parents’ generation also reduces the likelihood of children exhibiting normal grade progression and decreases the height-for-age Z-scores. The third essay uses an artefactual field experiment to examine the long-term effects of exposure to the Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979 on individuals’ pro-social and anti-social behavior and risk preferences. Our results show that individuals who were exposed to the genocide during childhood and early adolescence are less trusting, less altruistic, and more risk averse than those who were not exposed. We find little evidence that exposure to genocide leads to dishonest and vindictive behavior. Our results are corroborated by survey data and questionnaires on personality traits. The findings suggest that direct exposure to genocide during childhood and early adolescence has a lasting impact on social capital and attitude toward risk. It can also make individuals less extraverted and agreeable. The main findings from these three essays suggest that the civil conflicts in Cambodia have had long-lasting impacts on survivors and their children.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Russell Smyth

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics