Advancing Research • Shaping Policy • Developing Leaders
MacMillan-CSAP Workshop on Quantitative Research Methods: Chris Blattman, “Predicting Local Violence”
Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 4:00pm through 5:15pm
“Predicting Local Violence”
Speaker: Christopher J. Blattman, Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs and of Political Science, Columbia University
Abstract: We use forecasting models and new data from 242 Liberian communities to show that it is possible to predict outbreaks of local-level violence with remarkable accuracy, even with limited existing data. We train a model to predict communal and criminal violence in 2010 using risk factors measured in 2008. We compare predictions to actual violence in 2012 and find that more than 80% of violent episodes are correctly predicted. True positives come at the cost of many false positives, giving overall accuracy of about 41%. From a policy perspective, this implies that states, international organizations, and peacekeepers could use such predictions to better prevent and respond to violence. The predictive models also generate stylized facts for theory to explain. In this instance, the strongest predictors of more violence are social (mainly ethnic) cleavages, and minority group power-sharing.