Working Paper
The education backlash

How assimilative primary school education affects insurgency in areas of ethnic conflict

Education is a public service, assumed to be highly valued by citizens, allowing politicians to use it to reward their co-ethnics. However, nation-states have also used education to create loyal citizens, leaving politicians in times of heightened threat of ethnic mobilization.

This study investigates whether assimilatory national public investments in ethnic minority areas induce violence. To examine this question, we leverage the spatial and temporal variations in education infrastructure and insurgent recruitment through a difference-in-differences design, focusing on the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

We combine original archival data on the expansion of primary school provision to rural areas and geocoded data on the ethnoreligious distribution of over 30,000 villages in Turkey with data sources that provide information on insurgents’ birthplaces.

We find that the expansion of primary school provision in villages increased the likelihood of insurgency participation, despite its potential social mobility effect.