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Essays on the economic impact of forced displacement

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posted on 2023-06-10, 01:31 authored by Olive Nsababera
This thesis examines the economic impact of forced displacement on hosting regions – a challenge facing several countries but one for which empirical evidence is limited. It focuses on Tanzania, one of the countries that has hosted a large and prolonged presence of refugee camps in order to assess their long-term economic impact. It also examines persistence of the effects – a key contribution to the literature. The first chapter introduces the studies and describes the context. The first study is an individual-level analysis examining the long-term health effect of childhood exposure to refugee camps. I exploit the geographic variation and the fact that different birth cohorts were exposed to different stages of the camp life cycle - from camp establishment to camp closure - to study the differential effects from exposure. I find that individuals exposed to the early stages of camps were negatively affected and that the effect persisted into adulthood. I investigate possible channels through which health was affected and conclude that the primary channel was poor sanitation in initial camp phases. I find no effect on the subsequent generation. Moving from individual welfare, the second study focusses on data. Lack of subnational data is a challenge prevalent in the force displacement literature, and, indeed, in most developing countries. The study examines whether daytime satellite imagery can be used to predict local measures of economic activity and welfare. I first examine the predictive ability in a cross-sectional setting and find that features derived from remote sensing imagery can predict a large share of the variation in subnational agricultural occupation, wealth and consumption. Next, I evaluate whether the model can generalise across time. The results are mixed. Additionally, error rates of the predictions have implications for potential applications. The third study turns to forced displacement as a potential, but hitherto understudied, driver of urban growth. It examines whether refugee camps, as centres of resource inflows such as humanitarian aid, infrastructure investment, and local trade, had an urbanising effect on surrounding localities. Built-up area from daytime satellite imagery for the period 1985-2015 is used as a proxy for settlement and non-agricultural economic activity. The main finding is that camps had a small positive urbanising effect. The results are consistent with evidence that camp presence was not associated with profound structural change.


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  • eng


University of Sussex

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