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Horizontal Inequality in Education and Violent Conflict Research


FHI 360, through its Education Policy and Data Center, conducted a cross-national study of religious, ethnic and subnational inequalities in educational attainment by historical periods. The study, funded by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), found that a high level of education inequality between identity groups predicts a substantially greater risk of violent conflict compared to the global average. The study involved the creation of a unique multicountry dataset of educational attainment disaggregated by race, ethnicity, religion, subnational unit, age and gender, which allowed researchers to overcome the challenges of limited data that inhibited previous studies. 

The study makes a significant contribution to the literature on inequality between identity groups formed by ethnicity, race, religion or geographic region, and the effect that this type of inequality can have on the likelihood of violent conflict. Additionally, the study results showed a possible change in the relationship between inequality and conflict over time, noting that the effects of group-level education inequality on conflict are greater most recently (post-2000) and minimal in previous historical periods. While more research is needed to explain this relationship, these initial findings suggest that extreme inequality in education among groups may be playing a greater role in conflict even as educational opportunity across the globe is expanding.

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