PROJECT

DO NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE PROGRAMS REDUCE INTERGROUP BIAS?

Researchers: Belinda Archibong and Anja Tolonen

National youth service programs have as a stated aim, rebuilding institutions in post-conflict settings through the promotion of inter-group trust and provision of initial access to labor markets for domestic youth. Despite the proliferation of such programs among many post-conflict African countries and their frequent lauding as a model of effective domestic government driven development initiative, there are very few studies on the effectiveness of these programs. This study seeks to fill this research gap by examining the impact of these programs on social network formation across groups. In particular, the researchers investigate whether participation in these youth service programs reduces interethnic group bias and promotes peace-building. Given that one of the stated aims of these programs is `peace-building and fostering unity and trust between participants and communities' especially in post-conflict settings, it is important to evaluate the efficacy of these programs in meeting these goals. The researchers use evidence from Nigeria, which has the oldest youth service program (NYSC) in sub Saharan Africa, to examine these issues. Nigeria's NYSC is a compulsory youth service program for university/polytechnic graduates with quasi-random assignment of participants to regions in areas outside of their native region. An extension of the research also seeks to study the role of these service programs in relaxing labor market frictions by reducing mobility and network formation costs, with associated implications for labor market access. The results will also provide valuable insight into the utility of these programs for peace-building in post-conflict regions.