Destruction from Above: Long-Term Legacies of the Tokyo Air Raids
75 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2019 Last revised: 28 Jan 2022
Date Written: January 27, 2022
Does war enhance or impede the long-term community-level development of social capital? While mobilization and collective-action efforts might strengthen social ties, extreme destruction can potentially erase these effects. We use historical aerial photographs taken after the indiscriminate firebombing of Tokyo during World War II to measure conditionally independent micro-variation in neighborhood-level damages, and investigate the relationship between the amount of damages sustained and the present-day strength of neighborhood associations, a key indicator of geographically-rooted social capital. Even after decades of population recovery, economic growth, and transformations of the urban space, the most heavily damaged neighborhoods continue to have less-organized neighborhood associations, and also exhibit lower socioeconomic well-being in terms of education, occupation, and residential stability. These findings are consistent with the idea that the social capital of survivors is a crucial ingredient for postwar recovery: when fewer survivors remain, communities can potentially be set on a path of persistent disadvantage.
Keywords: historical persistence, political violence, geographic information systems (GIS), remote-sensing, social capital
JEL Classification: C80, D64, D74, I24, J64, K42, N35, N45
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