The Desire to Return during Civil War: Evidence for Internally Displaced Populations in Colombia

María Alejandra Arias 1 , Ana María Ibáñez 3  and Pablo Querubin 2
  • 1 Master in Public Policy Student, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, 1155 East 60th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA
  • 2 Assistant Professor of Politics and Economics, New York University, 19 W 4th Street, New York, NY, 10012, USA
  • 3 Department of Economics, Universidad de los Andes, Calle 19A No. 1-37 Este Bloque W, Bogota, Colombia
María Alejandra Arias, Ana María Ibáñez and Pablo Querubin


Armed conflict in Colombia has forcibly displaced more than 3.6 million people. In a post-conflict scenario, the socioeconomic stabilization of displaced households is crucial, as families must decide whether to stay in the reception place, relocate to a new municipality or return to their site of origin. In this paper we identify the determinants of the desire to return of internally displaced households in Colombia. We find that i) land tenure in the place of origin provides an incentive to return; ii) vulnerable households, in particular female-headed households and those from ethnic minorities seek to establish themselves at the reception site and exhibit a lower desire to return; iii) those who displaced as a consequence of a direct attack are less willing to return; iv) economic opportunities in the place of origin encourage return while economic opportunities at the reception site decrease the willingness to return; and v) social networks, as exemplified by membership in peasant organizations and collective land ownership, increase the desire to return. To be successful, the design of stabilization programs for the displaced population must consider these particularities of the households that are willing to return and those who prefer to stay in the reception site.

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