Despite the fact that returning home is promoted as a sustainable solution for refugees and displaced persons after a conflict has ended, there is little scientific research that looks at what happens to the social and economic lives of refugees once they return home.
This seminar aims to uncover one of the consequences of returning home after conflict induced displacement by taking a closer look at its impact on several dimensions of social capital. It uses a case study of a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon that witnessed a war in 2007, causing all of its residents to evacuate the camp within several days of the conflict between the Lebanese army and an Islamist militia. Six years on, and only 22% of households have managed to return home.
The nature of the return process allows us to isolate the causal impact of return by using an instrumental variable (the damage incurred at the household’s dwelling during the war) and the fact that return was organised by an external agency. In order to measure social capital the author collected a unique household dataset, representative of all residents of the camp prior to the displacement, and covering a range of questions related to social capital.
Principal component analysis allows us to identify several independent dimensions of social capital, such as trust and civic participation, and we find different effects of return on these dimensions. For example, social interactions is higher amongst returnees than displaced households, but the number of friends and family is lower amongst returnees.
About the Speaker
Alia Aghajanian is a doctoral student at the Institute of Development studies, and part of the Conflict, Violence and Development cluster.