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Education and Military Rivalry


  • Philippe Aghion
  • Torsten Persson
  • Dorothee Rouzet


Using data from the last 150 years in a small set of countries, and from the postwar period in a large set of countries, we show that large investments in state primary education systems tend to occur when countries face military rivals or threats from their neighbors. By contrast, we find that democratic transitions are negatively associated with education investments, while the presence of democratic political institutions magnifies the positive effect of military rivalries. These empirical results are robust to a number of statistical concerns and continue to hold when we instrument military rivalries with commodity prices or rivalries in a certain country's immediate neighborhood. We also present historical case studies, as well as a simple model, that are consistent with the econometric evidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippe Aghion & Torsten Persson & Dorothee Rouzet, 2012. "Education and Military Rivalry," NBER Working Papers 18049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18049
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Cinnirella, Francesco & Hornung, Erik, 2016. "Landownership concentration and the expansion of education," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 135-152.
    2. Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter, 2014. "Population, technology and fragmentation: The European miracle revisited," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 87-105.
    3. Manoel Bittencourt, 2013. "Democracy and Education: Evidence from the Southern African Development Community," Working Papers 201387, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
    4. Obinger, Herbert & Petersen, Klaus, 2014. "Mass warfare and the welfare: State causal mechanisms and effects," Working papers of the ZeS 02/2014, University of Bremen, Centre for Social Policy Research (ZeS).
    5. Aleberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini & Francesco Trebbi, 2017. "Is Europe an Optimal Political Area?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 48(1 (Spring), pages 169-234.
    6. Cantoni, Davide & Yuchtman, Noam, 2013. "The political economy of educational content and development: Lessons from history," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 233-244.
    7. Alberto Alesina & Bryony Reich, 2013. "Nation Building," NBER Working Papers 18839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Fabrice Murtin & Romain Wacziarg, 2014. "The democratic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 141-181, June.
    9. Traviss Cassidy & Mark Dincecco & Massimiliano Gaetano Onorato, 2015. "The Economic Legacy of Warfare: Evidence from European Regions," Working Papers 6/2015, IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca, revised Jul 2015.
    10. repec:ial:wpaper:7/2013 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Christian Pierdzioch & Rangan Gupta, 2017. "Uncertainty and Forecasts of U.S. Recessions," Working Papers 201732, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
    12. Ben Li & Penglong Zhang, 2016. "International Geopolitics," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 909, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 06 Feb 2017.
    13. Michalopoulos, Stelios & Papaioannou, Elias, 2014. "On the Ethnic Origins of African Development: Chiefs and Pre-colonial Political Centralization," CEPR Discussion Papers 10257, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    14. Nunn, Nathan, 2014. "Historical Development," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 7, pages 347-402 Elsevier.
    15. Mark Dincecco & Ugo Troiano, 2015. "Broadening the State: Policy Responses to the Introduction of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 21373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Fuchs-Schündeln, Nicola & Masella, Paolo, 2013. "Long-Lasting Effects of Socialist Education," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79865, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    17. Andersson, Jens & Berger, Thor, 2016. "Elites and the Expansion of Education in 19th-century Sweden," Lund Papers in Economic History 149, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    18. Xiaohuan Lan & Ben G. Li, 2015. "The Economics of Nationalism," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 294-325, May.
    19. Oriana Bandiera & Myra Mohnen & Imran Rasul & Martina Viarengo, 2015. "Nation-Building Through Compulsory Schooling During the Age of Mass Migration," STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series 057, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    20. Pamela Campa, "undated". "Press and Leaks: Do Newspapers Reduce Toxic Emissions?," Working Papers 2015-10, Department of Economics, University of Calgary, revised 01 Jul 2015.
    21. repec:cep:stieop:57 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Albuquerque Sant'Anna, André, 2015. "A spectre has haunted the west: did socialism discipline income inequality?," MPRA Paper 64756, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    23. Daron Acemoglu & Suresh Naidu & Pascual Restrepo & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Democracy, Redistribution and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 19746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • F52 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - National Security; Economic Nationalism
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General


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