Refugees and the education of host populations: Evidence from the Syrian inflow to Jordan

Ragui Assaad, Thomas Ginn, and Mohamed Saleh

Journal of Development Economics, Volume 164 (2023), Article 103131


This paper examines the effect of Syrian refugees on the educational outcomes of Jordanian students. The focus is on the period after the mass arrival of Syrian refugees in Jordan, which began in early 2013. The government of Jordan allowed most school-age Syrians to attend public schools, resulting in Syrian students comprising approximately 7 percent of the total population in Jordanian public schools.

The authors use a difference-in-differences approach that compares students who attended school with a high prevalence of Syrians to students from the same school who finished just before Syrians arrived. Data on educational outcomes of Jordanian students are obtained from the 2016 wave of the Jordan Labor Market Panel Survey (JLMPS 2016), and data on Syrian students in public schools is drawn from the Education Management Information System (EMIS) administrative data for the 2016 school year. The authors also compare the evolution of school supply outcomes across schools or localities before and after the Syrian arrival, drawing on administrative data from EMIS from 2009 to 2019.

Main findings:

  • There is no evidence that Syrians affected the educational outcomes of Jordanians. There is no impact of Syrian refugees on grade completion at various levels, final exam scores, grade repetition, and entry to secondary and tertiary education.
  • The government’s policy of establishing second shifts in existing public schools and opening new schools in camps mitigated potential overcrowding. The Jordanian government responded to the Syrian inflow by enrolling Syrians in evening shifts, and to a lesser extent, by opening new schools in camps. This policy appears to have mitigated the exposure of Jordanian students to Syrians and left the student–teacher ratio and the classroom density among Jordanian students largely unaffected.

The results demonstrate that the educational outcomes of Jordanian students in public schools were not significantly affected by exposure to the mass arrival of Syrian refugees. The Jordanian government was able to insulate Jordanian students from high levels of exposure to Syrians, mainly by adding evening shifts to public schools to accommodate Syrian students. The results suggest that peer effects were largely irrelevant due to the segregation of Syrian students in evening shifts. The authors conclude that the Jordanian response has effectively absorbed a large number of Syrians, but the quality of schooling for the displaced remains an open, critical question.