Beyond excess mortality: the demographic life of a Mayan community after a war of massacres

235 pages. London, London School of Economics and Political Science (2018)


This thesis focuses on the demographic consequences of mass killings on local populations. Three empirical studies written as journal articles explore the patterns of mortality and fertility after a series of massacres in the village of Río Negro in Guatemala. The first paper was motived by the dearth of reliable numerical data on massacre-affected populations. It describes the Extended Genealogy Method (EGM), an innovative data collection approach that brings together concepts and methods from various disciplines to reconstruct the demographic history of populations for which no data are available. The EGM was applied to reconstruct the last 40 years of Río Negro’s demographic history producing complete, reliable, and high-quality data suitable for demographic analysis. The second paper focuses on mortality by studying the role of family support and ‘scarring’ effects during and after the Río Negro Massacres, which caused the death of over a third of the village’s population. The article explores four mechanisms driving mortality in the village in the short- and long-term. It presents evidence of the protective effects of networks of family support. It also shows the lingering negative consequences of the massacres on survivors – social and psychological scarring were associated with higher long-term mortality. The third paper focuses on the fertility behaviour of the survivors of the Río Negro Massacres. It discusses potential factors driving fertility after the killings, including age, gender dynamics, social pressure, and scarring effects. The paper finds evidence of a fertility ‘drop and rebound’, with young women and older men having the highest post-killings fertility. Exposure to the killings was associated with lower subsequent fertility (particularly for women) evidencing profound scarring effects. A community-led pronatalist ideology encouraged high fertility amongst survivors of the massacres. This is the first study to explore the demographic consequences of mass killings in detail.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.