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Return Migration and Economic Outcomes in the Conflict Context

by Sonja Fransen, Isabel Ruiz, Carlos Vargas-Silva | Sunday, May 01, 2016

Knowledge about the economic implications of refugee return is essential in order to develop adequate policies in the post-conflict period. In this paper we explore differences in economic outcomes between return migrant households and non-migrant households using panel data from Burundi, a country which experienced large scale conflict-led emigration to Tanzania and massive post-war refugee return. We use proximity to the border of Tanzania for identification purposes. The results indicate that returnee households have significantly lower levels of livestock, which is the main form of capital accumulation in Burundi. Returnee households also report lower values of subjective economic well-being relative to other households. The gap between returnee and non-migrant households is driven by more recent returnees, defined as those that returned less than ten years ago. Our search for channels suggests that returnees are more likely to engage in economic activities that are generally correlated with lower levels of livestock. One explanation for this dynamic relates to the legal restrictions on economic activities faced by returnees while in displacement, which resulted in high levels of inactivity abroad and a potential loss/deterioration of skills. There is no evidence for other potential channels, including factors such as higher vulnerability to crime and worse health status.

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