The Effect of Education on In-prison Conflict: Evidence from Argentina

Publication Details

UNIVERSIDAD JAVERIANA BOGOTA, February2008, Documentos de Economia, 004546. Available From:

Link to Source
Maria Laura Alzua, Catherine Rodriguez and Edgar Villa
Institutional affiliations
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Grant-holding institution
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Latin America and the Caribbean
None specified
None specified
Equity Focus
None specified
Evaluation design
Instrumental Variables (IV)
Published Working Paper


Statistics show that 30.2% of Argentinean inmates have not finished primary education and 31.4% of the inmates have misconduct in the period 2002-2005. Education in prisons is likely to increase the opportunity cost for violence and the cost of time spent in prison, and through this channel, reduce in-prison violence. Since 1996 the national education programme evaluated has provided the initial and general education (equivalent to primary and part of secondary education) to the inmates who do not have it. This paper studies the impact of basic education programmes on different measures of in-prison violence including the probability of receiving a sanction, participating in a violent action and participating in extremely violent action. The study uses two different approaches to estimate the effects of the programme. First the authors use a regression analysis controlling for different characteristics of the inmates such as working in prison, felony record and age. However, since participation in the programme is not compulsory, self-selection into the education programme could lead regressions to underestimate the impact, if unobservable factors could be driving both the inclusion into the programme and lower levels of violence. The authors are aware of this problem and use a two-stage instrumental variable approach to correct for potential selection bias. The authors use the number of teachers per prisoner and per capita expenditure on education at the province level as an instrument for participation in the programme. The study uses census data for Argentine prisons collected from Sistema Nacional de Estadistica sobre Ejecuci?n de la Pena (SNEEP) surveys for the period 2002-2005. Authors only include in the study those male inmates who should be receiving education and are not able to leave the prison during the period of reference. The final sample includes 34,349 prisoners.

Main findings

Regression analysis shows little impact of the programme with reduction in the probability of in-prison bad behaviour varying from 0.005 to 0.048 depending on the violence measure used. However, this approach is susceptible to bias due to self-selection of prisoners into education programmes. A more reliable IV approach finds that being involved in an education programme reduces the probabilities of receiving a sanction, a severe sanction, or participating in a violent behavior resulting in material damage by 13 to 24 per cent. On the other hand, no conclusive evidence is found about the effects of the programme on reducing extremely violent behavior. Overall, guaranteeing education to inmates seems to be a useful policy to reduce in-prison violence. Besides, to the extent that in prison violence is related with posterior recidivism, education programmes can foster positive effects on future labour opportunities of ex-prisoners

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