Reconciling temperature-conflict results in Kenya

Marshall, Ted and I have a new short working paper out. When we correct the coding of a single variable in a previous study (that uses a new data set), we obtain highly localized temperature-conflict associations in Kenya that are largely in line with the rest of the literature. I think this is a useful example for why we should be careful with how we specify interaction terms.

Reconciling temperature-conflict results in Kenya
Solomon M. Hsiang, Marshall Burke, and Edward Miguel
Abstract: Theisen (JPR, 2012) recently constructed a novel high-resolution data set of intergroup and political conflict in Kenya (1989-2004) and examined whether the risk of conflict onset and incidence responds to annual pixel-level variations in temperature and precipitation.  Thiesen concluded that only extreme precipitation is associated with conflict incidence and that temperature is unrelated to conflict, seemingly at odds with recent studies that found a positive association at the pixel scale (O'laughlin et al., PNAS 2012), at the country scale (Burke et al., PNAS 2009), and at the continental scale (Hsiang et al., Nature 2011) in Africa.  Here we show these findings can be reconciled when we correct the erroneous coding of temperature-squared in Thiesen. In contrast to the original conclusions presented in Theisen, both conflict onset and conflict incidence are significantly and positively associated with local temperature in this new and independently assembled data set.

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