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Operation Allied Force: Unintended Consequences of the NATO Bombing on Children’s Outcomes

Guest speaker

Sunčica Vujić (University of Antwerp)


Room -1.26 EEG UMinho & Online


Start08.05.2024 13:15End08.05.2024 14:15

Event summary


Sunčica Vujić is a Professor of Economics at the University of Antwerp. She holds affiliations with the VU University Amsterdam and the University of Bath. She is a Research Fellow at the IZA – Institute of Labor Economics and the Global Labor Organization (GLO). Her research interests are in the fields of applied econometrics and labour economics, focussing on crime, education, gender, migration, discrimination and pro-social behaviour. She serves the community as a secretary of the Executive Committee of the European Society of Population Economics (ESPE). She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the VU University Amsterdam.


This paper estimates the causal effect of the NATO’s Operation Allied Force in Serbia in 1999, on children who were in the womb during the bombing. We investigate the in utero effect in terms of short-term birthweight and stillbirth outcomes, as well as medium-term outcomes measured by grades and high school preferences for/enrolment in non-vocational secondary school of 15-year-old pupils at the end of primary school. Using entire birth records of the Serbian Statistical Office we compare the birthweight outcomes of children born in the same year (1999) and in the months just before and after the bombing, and children born in the same months of the previous year (1998). We then exploit the data on educational achievement at the end of primary school, provided by the Ministry of Education, to estimate matching models of the effect of the bombing on individual grades and secondary school preferences/enrolment. Our findings suggest that children who were in utero during the bombing were 2pp more likely to be born with a lower than average (< 3500g) birthweight and 1pp less likely to be born with high birthweight (≥ 4000g). We find no effects for low birthweight (< 2500g) and stillbirth outcomes. In the medium-term, we find a statistically significant negative effect of the bombing on grades in mathematics (around −0.9%) and Serbian language (around −0.6%) at the end of primary school, and a 1pp decrease in the preference for/enrolment in academically oriented secondary school. Our results emphasise that war-related bombing has devastating consequences for pregnant women and affected children, and the necessity of policy intervention to prevent conflicts and mitigate their consequences for the most vulnerable part of the population.

The link to the IZA DP paper is here: https://docs.iza.org/dp14598.pdf (we have a more recent version, should you wish to circulate the paper).

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