Demographic Engineering and International Conflict: Evidence From China and the Former USSR

Lachlan McNamee , Stanford University

When and where do states alter their demography? This paper theorizes how war induces states to resettle populations. We predict that states during war employ demographic engineering to shore up control over (i) non-natural frontiers, and (ii) areas populated by minorities who are co-ethnics with elites in a hostile power. We substantiate our predictions using new demographic data from China and the USSR. Identifying the effect of war via a difference-in-differences design, we find that the Sino-Soviet split led to the expulsion of Russians and resettlement of ethnic Han in Chinese border areas lacking a natural border with the USSR. On the Soviet side, we similarly find that the Sino-Soviet split led to a significant increase in expulsion of Chinese and the resettlement of Russians in border areas. This paper thereby advances the nascent field of political demography by advancing our understanding of when and where states shape migration.

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 Presented in Session 78. Internal Migration