Does Aid Reduce Anti-refugee Violence? Evidence from Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

American Political Science Review

Anti-refugee violence often accompanies refugee migration, but the factors that fuel or mitigate that violence remain poorly understood, including the common policy response in such settings of humanitarian aid. Existing theory and policy debates predict that aid to refugees exacerbates anti-refugee violence by increasing hosts’ resentment toward refugees. In contrast, however, aid may reduce violence in ways such as increasing host communities’ well-being through more demand for local goods and services and refugees sharing aid. We test for the sign and mechanisms of this relationship. Evidence from original survey data and a regression discontinuity design suggests that cash transfers to Syrian refugees in Lebanon did not increase anti-refugee violence, and if anything they reduced violence. Exploring why aid does not increase hostility, we find evidence that aid allows recipients to indirectly compensate locals through higher demand for local goods and services, directly benefit locals by offering help and sharing aid, and reduce contact with potential aggressors.