Abstract

We investigate the impact of U.S. bombing on later economic development in Vietnam. The Vietnam War featured the most intense bombing campaign in military history and had massive humanitarian costs. We use a unique U.S. military dataset containing bombing intensity at the district level (N = 584) to assess whether the war damage led to persistent local poverty traps. We compare the heavily bombed districts to other districts controlling for district demographic and geographic characteristics, and use an instrumental variable approach exploiting distance to the 17th parallel demilitarized zone. U.S. bombing does not have negative impacts on local poverty rates, consumption levels, infrastructure, literacy or population density through 2002. This finding indicates that even the most intense bombing in human history did not generate local poverty traps in Vietnam.

Supplementary Materials and Data