Is education liberation? Evidence from Kenyan girls.

We assess the social and political impacts of a randomized girls’ merit scholarship incentive program in Kenya that raised test scores and secondary school enrollment.

Counter to modernization theory, increased human capital did not produce more pro-democratic or secular attitudes and, if anything, it strengthened ethnic identification.

Consistent with the empowerment view, young women in program schools had fewer arranged marriages and were less likely to accept domestic violence as legitimate.

Moreover, the program increased objective political knowledge, and reduced both acceptance of political authorities and satisfaction with politics. However, in our Kenyan context, this rejection of the status quo did not translate into greater perceived political efficacy, community participation or voting intentions. Instead, the program increased the perceived legitimacy of political violence.

A new paper by Friedman, Kremer, Miguel and Thornton.

Very nice conclusions, except for the violence bit. Interestingly, in a paper soon to be released, I find that government grants and economic success make Ugandan women twice as likely to have disputes with police and leaders, and to threaten others.

Empowerment = entering the world = conflict? Especially if you are a poor woman surrounded by bigoted males? To be explored, but I think I have a prediction.

On a side note, as a graduate student, I actually attended one of the scholarship distribution ceremonies from this experiment. It was my second day ever in Africa, and the day ended with me and the distribution team almost being stoned for being demons.

That was the first and last time I experienced the continent living up to its B-movie stereotype. The ten years since have been very pleasant and more or less demon free.