Research Interests 

Understanding conflict at the highly local level, analyzing the behavior of combatants and perpetrators, and evaluating the specific mechanisms that generate conflict and other forms of political violence — these three aims motivate my research. To achieve them, I study domestic conflict and political violence, with a specific focus on using environmental and socioeconomic factors to explain and predict violence inside and outside of conflict settings. As a researcher I devote considerable energy into developing “localized conflict” approaches to understanding manifestations of violence traditionally analyzed at the country level.

International relationspolitical violence; environmental conflict; civil war; the geography of violence

Methodology: computational social science; mixed distribution models; causal inference; mixed methods; event data


Data Collection Projects

Koren, Ore. “Geolocated Zoonotic Disease Outbreaks in Africa.” In progress.

Koren, Ore. “Local Zoonotic Disease Outbreaks in East and South Asia.” In progress.

Koren, Ore, Brittney Koehnlein, and Jessica Steinberg. “Peasant Rebellions in Europe, 1500-1900.” In progress. 

Schon, Justin, and Ore Koren. “AfroGrid V1.0.” Harvard Dataverse (2021).  Last updated 12/30/2021.

Note: AfroGrid is an empirical data framework, which aggregates existing data. When using, please make sure to cite the original creators of the dataset.

Koren, Ore. “The Domestic Security Organization (DSO) Dataset.” Data on all domestic security organizations other than the military in 193 countries since the Cold War. Last updated: 7/25/2019. 

Koren, Ore , Brandon Bolte, Minnie M. Joo, and Bumba Mukherjee. “Pro-Government Organization (PGO) Dataset: A Dataset on Political and Military Integration of Paramilitaries, Militias, and Rebel Groups in Post-War Contexts.” Data last updated: 4/17/2019. 

Peer-Reviewed Conference Proceedings

Bagozzi, Benjamin E., and Ore Koren. 2017. “Using Machine Learning Methods to Identify Atrocity Perpetrators.” Proceedings of the IEEE Big Data 2017 Conference.

“Big data” on atrocities events are now widely analyzed in the social sciences. Unfortunately, these data often contain incomplete information on the identities of atrocity perpetrators. This study addresses this deficiency by developing a machine learning approach for the accurate recovery of unknown perpetrator identities within existent atrocities datasets. In doing so, it demonstrates how to transform and standardize a large number of auxiliary variables into text-compatible data. It next shows how to leverage this information to train a series of classifiers on observed atrocities data. After identifying the ideal set of machine learning algorithms and evaluating their performance in this context, this study then uses an ensemble of the best performing algorithms to classify all unknown atrocity perpetrators included within a prominent atrocities dataset, validating the results with external data from the Iraq conflict.

Other Conference Proceedings

Koren, Ore. “Conflict Prevention in Isolated World Ship Societies.” Proceedings of the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop.

Scholars have long argued that so-called “closed societies” frequently experience severe violence perpetrated for political motivations. Living in socioeconomic and political vacuum aboard large world ships – without inter-societal migration, external penetration of ideas, conflict management and peacebuilding by external parties, or even regular communications with the outside world – interstellar societies will be especially vulnerable to internal conflict. In such contexts, enmities can easily fester, nonviolent quarrels can escalate into violent conflict and political disagreement can deteriorate into mass killing of opposition members. Building on recent research, this paper identifies specific factors that could engender conflict on interstellar world ships to offer strategies of mitigation and prevention. The paper begins by discussing four types of conflict on Earth that are especially likely in the context of world ships and listing their relevant socioeconomic and political causes. These pathways are then articulated to operationalize empirical models of violence. The strongest predictors are identified empirically by statistically analyzing large datasets of different conflict types on Earth over the last half century. To do so, computer simulations are first applied to out-of-sample data, i.e., data not used to compile the original models, to cross-validate the relevant strength of the predictors identified in the previous stage. This process is repeated twice, first on a sample of all countries globally for the years 1961–2011 and then again on a sample consisting solely of countries with very high population densities – societies that resemble those most likely to exist on world ships. Finally, literature on conflict mitigation is applied to pinpoint strategies to address causes of conflict identified as having an especially strong impact as societal density increases, including political restrictions, economic inequalities, ethnic divisions and limitations on access to food. By applying lessons from earth societies to interstellar travel, this paper will inform the creation of a sustainable, peaceful governance system for future on-board colonies.

Published Working Papers

Koren, Ore, and Bumba Mukherjee. “Integrated Militias Can Increase the Risk of Civil War Renewal.” HiCN Working Paper 336.

Research on civil war identified multiple reason for why some transitions to peace are more robust than others. However, scholars largely ignored a key determinant of successful peace: the role of pro-government militias and their absorption into the new or recovering state. Using new data on 160 pro-government organizations (PGOs) in 144 post-civil-war contexts, we show that integrating PGOs into the security apparatus significantly shifts the hazard of conflict renewal over time upward, while integrating them into the government decreases said risk. Substantively, by year 12, security-integrated contexts are at a staggering 45% higher risk of experiencing conflict renewal compared with non-security integrated contexts, while politically integrated contexts are at a 21% lower risk of experiencing conflict renewal compared with non-politically integrated contexts. Disaggregating renewal by context, we additionally find that the adverse impact of security integration is especially acute in government victory and bargained outcome contexts; in contrast, rebel victory contexts show no effect of security integration, but a negative and statistical impact of political integration on the hazard of renewal. We conclude with a brief discussion of the implications for research and policymaking.

Koehnlein, Brittney, and Ore Koren. “COVID-19, State Capacity, and Political Violence by Nonstate Actors.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has constrained the ability of states across the world to govern and control their territories. As the state reduces its activities, space opens up for violent nonstate actors working for and against the state to fill the vacuum. Highlighting this trend, the present study evaluates the effects of COVID-19 and pandemics more broadly on attacks by nonstate actors. Our theory emphasizes the incentives of both rebels and pro-government nonstate actors (PGNs) to increase their attack frequency as disease spreads and the state retracts its governance activities to preserve resources needed elsewhere. In the first case, we highlight how the pandemic allows rebels to reduce asymmetries of power with respect to the military and establish themselves as a viable government alternative. In the second case, PGNs, which provide an alternative to militaries, are deployed to these contested spaces to thwart or preempt rebellion during the pandemic. Employing daily level data on the annual change in armed conflict and COVID-19 cases across 127 countries between 1 January 2020 and 15 June 2020, we test both claims using an econometric identification strategy. We do not find clear evidence that COVID-19 led to a higher frequency of rebel attacks, suggesting that these groups prefer to bolster their standing using nonviolent means, or avoid fighting and preserve their resources. In contrast, we find that the frequency of PGN attacks has increased with COVID-19 prevalence compared with last year. Case studies of insurgent and PGN activity in Afghanistan and Nigeria lend additional support to these results, illustrating some underlying mechanisms. Our findings explore overlooked challenges that pandemics and other disasters pose to conflict mitigation and the role PGNs play in these contexts.

Bagozzi, Benjamin E., and Ore Koren. 2020. “The Diplomatic Burden of Pandemics: The Case of Malaria.” HiCN Working Paper 330.

The social and economic burdens of pandemics are becoming increasingly well-known. This paper seeks to gain a better understanding of this phenomena by assessing one highly prevalent global pandemic: malaria. It does so by evaluating malaria’s burden on the political ties of nation-states, and on international relations more generally. We posit that malaria dissuades foreign countries from locating their envoys in malaria-affected states. As a consequence, a protracted pandemic has the potential to undermine the political ties of nation-states, as well as the many benefits of these connections. This argument is tested empirically using both directed- dyadic and monadic data. We find that malaria not only serves to discourage foreign governments from establishing diplomatic outposts, but also decreases the total diplomatic missions that a country receives. These findings thus have important policy implications, especially for developing states that seek to increase their global political impact while simultaneously combating persistent pandemics.

Koren, Ore, and Bumba Mukherjee. “Violent Repression as a Commitment Problem: Urbanization, Food Shortages, and Civilian Killings under Authoritarian Regimes.” HiCN Working Paper 296.

Authoritarian regimes frequently commit systematic killings of their own subjects, yet the mechanisms governing this behavioral shift remain unclear. We address this puzzle by developing a formal model that shows authoritarian elites perpetrate systematic killing campaigns preemptively in response to an exogenous shock where urban development levels are sufficiently high. In these contexts, the civilians cannot commit not to mobilize and pose a credible threat to the regime, which often preempts these efforts using systematic killings. Statistical analyses of a global high-resolution sample within all authoritarian states between 1996 and 2008 confirm the model’s predictions. This study thus explicates when elites would resort to systematic killing as a rationalist strategy, and identifies an important dynamic that explains geographical and temporal variations in systematic killings within authoritarian states.

Koren, Ore. “Hunger Games: Food Security and Strategic Preemptive Conflict.” HiCN Working Paper 253.

A growing number of studies draw linkages between violent conflict and food scarcities. Yet, evidence suggests that at the subnational level conflict is likely to revolve around food resources abundance. In focusing on conflict waged by groups to prevent their rivals from securing food resources, this paper offers a theory to understand the relationship between food security and violent conflict. I develop a formal model that incorporates three actors: civilian producers who grow crops, raiders, and defense forces. Equilibrium and comparative static results show that violent conflict is more likely in regions with an abundance of food resources. The model is validated at the subnational level using new high specificity spatial data on staple crop production for the years 1998-2008, and used to forecast conflict for 2009-2010. In line with theoretical expectations, food resources have a positive and statistically significant effect on the strategic behaviors of different actors.

Working Manuscripts

Koren, Ore, and Laura Mann. “Nighttime Light, Superlinear Growth, and Economic Inequalities at the Country Level.”

Research has highlighted relationships between size and scaled growth across a large variety of biological and social organisms, ranging from bacteria, through animals and plants, to cities an companies. Yet, heretofore, identifying a similar relationship at the country level has proven challenging. One reason is that, unlike the former, countries have predefined borders, which limit their ability to grow “organically.” This paper addresses this issue by identifying and validating an effective measure of organic growth at the country level: nighttime light emissions, which serve as a proxy of energy allocations where more productive activity takes place. This indicator is compared to population size to illustrate that while nighttime light emissions are associated with superlinear growth, population size at the country level is associated with sublinear growth. These relationships and their implications for economic inequalities are then explored using high-resolution geospatial datasets spanning the last three decades.

Koren, Ore. “Reparations for State Crimes as a Diffusive Norm.”

This study applies extant theories on the diffusion of human rights to reparations for mass killing, and tests these theories using modeling techniques that account for the diffusive nature of reparations. I argue that reparations for state crimes are a rare, diffusive event, and that in order to understand their spread one must account for the conditional relationship between where and when diffusive processes are more likely. Drawing on extant theories of international policy diffusion and international law, I derive testable hypotheses regarding the diffusion of reparations for state crimes. These hypotheses are then tested on newly available data on reparations for the years 1971-2011 using Bayesian Weibull models that account for the underlying differences affecting the baseline likelihood and baseline hazard, respectively, of reparations, based on theoretical expectations. Primarily, I find that regimes with less political rights are significantly less likely to provide reparations. In addition, evidence from these theory specific hierarchical models suggests that more international reparations precedents are associated with increased time until reparations, whereas GATT/WTO membership and perpetrating regimes are associated with decreased time until reparations. These models also suggest that reparations become more likely over time, and can be used to identify countries that are inherently more likely to adopt them.