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The Plight of the Forgotten Ones: Civil War and Forced Migration


  • Author’s notes: This research was supported by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (SES-0819494), Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship, Regents Graduate Fellowship, the Clyde E. and Garnet G. Starkey Scholarship Award, and a Research Project and Travel (RPT) grant from the University of New Mexico. I thank Wendy Hansen for her invaluable support during the many iterations of this research, William Stanley, Lonna Atkeson, and the anonymous reviewers for their very useful comments and suggestions. Special thanks to the Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC) in Nepal for providing me with critical support, expertise, and office space during my field work. Data used in this article can be downloaded from


Adhikari, Prakash. (2012) The Plight of the Forgotten Ones: Civil War and Forced Migration. International Studies Quarterly, doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2478.2011.00712.x
© 2012 International Studies Association

Adding value to existing aggregate cross-national analyses on forced migration, I use subnational-level data to investigate circumstances that affect people’s decisions of whether or not to flee their homes during civilian conflicts. Building on existing literature, I argue that conflict by itself is not the sole factor affecting people’s decisions to flee or stay. Apart from a direct physical impact, civil war can destroy economic infrastructure and expose people to economic hardships, which can contribute to displacement. In addition, flight may be impeded or facilitated by such factors as geographical features, physical infrastructure, and social conditions under which people live. Using count data from the Maoists “people’s war” in Nepal, a subnational analysis of displacement is conducted to provide a more refined test of existing large-n studies on the causes of forced migration. The empirical results are consistent with the major hypotheses developed in the field. With more precise measures of conflict, economic and physical conditions, and presence of social networks, I demonstrate the importance of a rationalist framework in understanding the choice of flight.