The Violent Legacy of Conflict: Evidence on Asylum Seekers, Crime, and Public Policy in Switzerland

Author(s) : Mathieu Couttenier, Veronica Petrencu, Dominic Rohner, Mathias Thoenig

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« We study empirically how past exposure to conflict in origin countries makes migrants more violence-prone in their host country, focusing on asylum seekers in Switzerland. We exploit a novel and unique dataset on all crimes reported in Switzerland by the nationalities of perpetrators and of victims over 2009–2016. Our baseline result is that cohorts exposed to civil conflict/mass killing during childhood are 35 percent more prone to violent crime than the average cohort. This effect is particularly strong for early childhood exposure and is mostly confined to co-nationals, consistent with inter-group hostility persisting over time. We exploit cross-region heterogeneity in public policies within Switzerland to document which integration policies are best able to mitigate the detrimental effect of past conflict exposure on violent criminality. We find that offering labor market access to asylum seekers eliminates two-thirds of the effect. »



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