The Effect of Youth Demographics on Violence: The Importance of the Labor Market
AbstractRecent uprisings in the Middle East have increased interest in the roots of moderate as well as severe political and social conflicts. One popular explanation for upticks in violence is the “youth bulge,” the presence of disproportionately large youth cohorts. We refine that model using a panel dataset that includes more countries and years than previous literature and implement new measurement techniques to capture the relationship between large youth populations and violence. Contrary to prior literature, we find that the mere presence of a “youth bulge” is not enough to generate violence, but instead the causal roots of violence lie in the pressure youth cohorts exert on the total labor force. We use a new variable, the Youth Risk Factor (the ratio of the youth population to the total labor force), to measure the stress youth cohorts exert on labor markets, and find a significant and large effect on violence. These results have policy implications for countries that currently face large youth cohorts and help explain why conventional policy measures such as increasing educational access are likely not the answer to reducing violence.
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