Case Study

Does Horizontal Education Inequality Lead to Violent Conflict: Global Analysis

Authors:
Carina Omoeva
Elizabeth Buckner
Source:
UNICEF and FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center
Contributor:
Publication Year:
2015
May 04, 2020
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education

Explores the relationship between horizontal inequality (i.e., inequalities between ethnic, religious, and subnational groups) in education and violent conflict, exploring three questions in particular: 1. Does education inequality between ethnic and religious groups increase the likelihood of violent conflict? 2. Does education inequality between subnational regions within a country increase the likelihood of violent conflict in that country? 3. Does the relative disadvantage of a subnational region compared to the country as a whole increase the risk of violent conflict in that subnational region? Overall, the report concludes that in most recent years, countries with higher levels of horizontal inequalities in terms of mean years of schooling have been substantially more likely to experience violent conflict.

Executive Summary

Are countries where some ethnic or religious groups have systematically lower levels of education more likely to experience civil conflict than those where all groups have equal access to school? This is the central question in the growing literature investigating the relationship between horizontal inequalities (i.e., inequalities between ethnic, religious, and subnational groups) in education and violent conflict. This report takes a deeper look at this question, asking:

  1. Does education inequality between ethnic and religious groups increase the likelihood of violent conflict?
  2. Does education inequality between subnational regions within a country increase the likelihood of violent conflict in that country?
  3. Does the relative disadvantage of a subnational region compared to the country as a whole increase the risk of violent conflict in that subnational region?

Methodology. We draw on two new datasets that offer substantially more comprehensive and finegrained data on horizontal educational inequality than has previously been available– the Education Inequality and Conflict (EIC) Dataset, which spans five decades and includes data from nearly 100 countries, and the Subnational Education Inequality and Conflict Dataset (SEIC), which includes data on over 200 subnational regions in 24 nations in sub-Saharan Africa, from 1989-2012. In our analysis, the dependent variable is conflict onset, and the primary predictor of interest is education Group Gini – a measure of horizontal educational inequality in a given country or region and year, which are calculated from group differences in mean years of schooling. Having multiple observations for each country over time allows us to account for unobserved country-specific factors that may influence the likelihood of conflict in any one country. To carry out the analyses, we fit multilevel logistic regression models with random intercepts that take advantage of the longitudinal and clustered nature of the dataset.

Findings. We find a statistically significant and quantitatively large relationship between ethnic and religious inequality on likelihood of conflict in the 2000s, robust to multiple specifications of regression models. Specifically, we find that one standard deviation in the Group Gini coefficient on mean years of education is associated with more than double odds of violent conflict. However, this effect is not present across the entire historical period– in fact, while it comes out powerfully in the years since 2000, it is not present in the 1970-1990 period. In contrast, subnational educational inequality is a strong predictor of civil war regardless of the time period. In terms of the relationship between a subnational region’s relative inequality and its likelihood of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, the results are inconclusive. Findings suggest that subnational regions that are disadvantaged relative to the nation as a whole are more likely to experience conflict-related fatalities than are more advantaged regions. However, these findings are not robust to multiple specifications.

Overall, the findings show that in most recent years, countries with higher levels of horizontal inequalities in terms of mean years of schooling have been substantially more likely to experience violent conflict. While we acknowledge that the causality of this relationship cannot be established, we offer plausible explanations for the findings, including the increasingly severe implications of educational exclusion on individuals’ life prospects, and suggest avenues for future research and data collection.

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