The impact of war on primary education enrollment in South Sudan, 2013-2016

Project State

South Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war since 2013, with tens of thousands killed and millions more displaced. The economy has nearly collapsed, severely reducing production and crushingly raising inflation. Prior research has focused on understanding the immediate humanitarian consequences, especially forced displacement and food insecurity. Little knowledge, however, exists about the long-term penalties of war on human capital accumulation in this nascent context.

This analysis exploits space variation in exposure to violence to estimate the causal impact of the recent South Sudanese civil war on primary school enrollment as a measure of human capital accumulation. Results based on the difference-in-differences (DD) methodology indicate a statistically significant relationship between enrollment and the war.

Generally, the study shows that schools located in the war zones lost on average 85 children per year. The diminishing trends in girls’ enrollment are unrelated to the war. This is unsurprising, as social barriers, including gendered domestic roles, early marriage, and out of wedlock pregnancies, have for long impeded female educational opportunities in South Sudan. These effects are robust to a number of specifications, including holding constant school-level fixed-effects and adjusting for the standard errors. Implications for policy, both locally and internationally, are discussed.