Emile Bustani Seminar: "No country for young men (and women): Education, employment, and inequality in the Middle East and North Africa"

Tuesday, March 05, 2019 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Building E51, 325
70 MEMORIAL DR, Cambridge, MA 02142

"No country for young men (and women): Education, employment, and inequality in the Middle East and North Africa"

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
Professor of Economics, Virginia Tech 
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Research Affiliate, Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School
Research Fellow, Economic Research Forum (ERF), Cairo

Worldwide, education offers better employment prospects and upward social mobility. These benefits have been the two pillars of the social contract in the post-independent Middle East between authoritarian governments, who promised education and government jobs, and the people they ruled. In the last two decades this “authoritarian bargain” has come largely undone as ever larger cohorts of university educated youth compete for a shrinking number of governments jobs.  The failure of education in the Middle East in securing employment is well known: everywhere in the region, educated youth suffer from the highest rates of unemployment. Less well known is its failure as the main path to upward social mobility. In this talk, Salehi-Isfahani draws on a growing body of evidence on equality of opportunity in education in the Middle East to document and explain the twin failures of education to modernize Middle Eastern societies.

Djavad Salehi‐Isfahani received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University in 1977.  He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania till 1984, before moving to Virginia Tech, where he is currently Professor of Economics. He is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Global Economy and Development, the Brookings Institution, Research Affiliate of the Iran Project at the Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School, and Research Fellow at the Economic Research Forum (ERF) in Cairo. He has held visiting positions at the University of Oxford, the Brookings Institution, Harvard University, and Princeton University. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Economic Research Forum in Cairo, the Middle East Economic Association, the International Iranian Economic Association, and as Associate Editor of the Middle East Development Journal. His current research is on economic inequality and economics of the family in the Middle East.  His opinion pieces have appeared in Al Monitor, Brookings, Foreign Affairs, LA Times, Lobelog.com, the New York Times, and the Project Syndicate.

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Public, MIT Community, Students

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School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS)


Middle East, international studies, CIS, Bustani



Center for International Studies


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