State Failure and Political Instability

State Failure and Political Instability: The Impact of Educational Attainment in Africa

Reviewed by Sarah Schutz
March 23, 2015

Through a quantitative analysis, Jesse Neugarten evaluates the role that educational attainment has on political instability and the rate of state failure across the African continent. Specifically, he looks at education on secondary and tertiary levels obtained during the early independence years (1950-1965) and its potential effects on political instability during the later period (1966-2014). He performs statistical analysis using each as his independent variable. Political instability, his dependent variable, is determined based on the Political Instability Index. In his analysis, he chooses to control for economic development, ethnicity, health, and colonial heritage in the early independence period. Through an ordinary-least squares regression analysis, he concludes that higher educational on the secondary level between 1950 and 1965 decreases political instability and the probability that a nation state will fail between 1966 and 2014.

Interestingly, Neugarten concludes levels of tertiary education have the opposite effect.  He finds levels of political instability across Africa increased with during the later period. He also notes that the demonstrated correlation of tertiary education and political instability is much larger than that between instability and secondary education. He associates this seemingly counterintuitive effect with the rise of the social elite and resulting class dynamics during the independence period. As more privileged black elites gained power, they strove to secure their access to levels of higher education for their children. In turn, the rest of society is left with limited or no educational access. Overtime, this educational inequality leads to strife between the two social classes, resulting in destabilization.

Overall, Neugarten concludes that more analysis must be done to evaluate how state failure, education, and inequality impact the developing world.  Specifically he points to the necessity of measuring the quality of human capital rather that simply looking at educational attainment. This is a valid concern among developing economists, as skills learned in school might not be applicable in the job market.

See the full paper here!

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