Labor Market Opportunities and Violent Crime among Muslim Youth: Experimental Evidence from Northern Nigeria

Oeindrila Dube

Can providing labor market opportunities improve economic well-being and decrease violent criminal activity?

When Oeindrila Dube traveled to Northern Nigeria in the summer of 2016, she observed a high population of Muslim youth beset by extreme poverty. She also saw the destabilizing effects of widespread conflict and violent crime fueled by unemployed young men with few economic opportunities. She is currently studying whether Northern Nigeria can reduce instability and violent crime by giving at-risk Muslim youth an alternative path.

Dube will work with the Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) unit of the World Bank and Professor Benjamin Crost, assistant professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to conduct a randomized control trial of two vocational training interventions. One provides apprenticeship-based training to youth, linking each beneficiary to a skilled master craftsperson. Another provides class-based training through Community Skills Development Centres (COSDECs). Both interventions will be implemented by Adam Smith International under the Mafita program, a Department for International Development–funded initiative operating in the Nigerian cities of Kano, Kaduna, and Katsina.

Pilot phase
Together, the interventions will provide skills training to nearly 3,000 men and women during a pilot phase. The sample is unique in that it includes a large number of highly marginalized individuals, including the Almajirai, children of poor families who migrated to cities to study in Qur’anic Schools. The study will examine the economic and social impact of these programs by using random assignment to create comparable treatment and control groups.

Dube will provide periodic updates on this project as it unfolds, providing insights into the strategies and challenges of field research. She will report on implementation of the training program, her team’s efforts to implement surveys in the field, and ultimately, measured impacts.

The Mafita program may also be scaled up during a second phase, which makes findings from the pilot phase particularly policy-relevant.

(in progress)