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War Violence Decreases Long-Term Human Well-Being: The Evidence from the Strategic Bombing to Japan During WWII

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What kind of legacy does war violence leave for future societies? Among many factors that humans can control, war often affects the highest number of people; several studies have looked at the long-term effects of war violence on present socioeconomic outcomes. The conclusions, however, are generally divided into two competing claims, namely those that emphasize the proactive consequences of war violence and those that emphasize negative legacies. This is one of the first studies to provide empirical evidence of a negative association between war violence and human well-being. I used historical data from WWII strategic bombing of Japan to calculate the extent of war destruction and suicide rates as an inverse index of human well-being. The panel data analysis, which used the originally-constructed historical aggregated data set of Japanese prefectures, reveals that the suicide rates of several decades later are greater in areas where people have experienced higher levels of house loss. According to the survey data analysis, the air raids may have undermined the communal relationships of the bombed districts. Although the effect is small and declining with time, this study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the long-term persistence of war legacies.
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Vol.:(0123456789)
International Journal of Community Well-Being
https://doi.org/10.1007/s42413-022-00164-8
1 3
ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
War Violence Decreases Long‑Term Human Well‑Being: The
Evidence fromtheStrategic Bombing toJapan During WWII
MasatakaHarada1
Received: 29 November 2019 / Accepted: 26 February 2022
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022
Abstract
What kind of legacy does war violence leave for future societies? Among many fac-
tors that humans can control, war often affects the highest number of people; several
studies have looked at the long-term effects of war violence on present socioeco-
nomic outcomes. The conclusions, however, are generally divided into two compet-
ing claims, namely those that emphasize the proactive consequences of war violence
and those that emphasize negative legacies. This is one of the first studies to provide
empirical evidence of a negative association between war violence and human well-
being. I used historical data from WWII strategic bombing of Japan to calculate the
extent of war destruction and suicide rates as an inverse index of human well-being.
The panel data analysis, which used the originally-constructed historical aggregated
data set of Japanese prefectures, reveals that the suicide rates of several decades
later are greater in areas where people have experienced higher levels of house loss.
According to the survey data analysis, the air raids may have undermined the com-
munal relationships of the bombed districts. Although the effect is small and declin-
ing with time, this study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the long-
term persistence of war legacies.
Keywords Air raids· Political violence· Well-being· Social capital
Introduction
A growing number of social scientists are tackling the problem of estimating the
causal effects of historical events such as the slave trade (Nunn & Wantchekon,
2011), the Crusade (Blaydes & Paik, 2016), or the Holocaust (Acemoglu et al.,
2011) on contemporary societies. Above all, evaluating the impact of war violence is
gaining scholarly attention and is a growing field of study in social science (Bellows
and Miguel 2009; Kocher etal., 2011). This is most likely because, of all the events
* Masataka Harada
masatakaharada@gmail.com
1 Faculty ofEconomics, Fukuoka University, Fukuoka, Japan
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