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Research for the Real World

International Interactions Policy Blog

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International Interactions is a peer-reviewed journal with direct relevance to a wide and interdisciplinary audience. Readers include political scientists, economists, historians, mathematicians, statisticians, anthropologists, sociologists, and other social science researchers with an interest in international relations, as well as informed professionals in business and government.

Launched in 2019, II's blog synthesizes scholarly findings for a practitioner audience. Each blog post describes the policy takeaways of a recent II article, in the authors' own words, for use by engaged policymakers who can apply this research to current issues and challenges. 

Read the most recent blog posts below. Previous posts are archived by topic: conflict, human rights, leadership, and political economy.


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Utilitarianism or Cosmopolitanism? A Study of Education’s Impact on Individual Attitudes toward Foreign Countries | October 2021

Gong Chen, Utilitarianism or Cosmopolitanism? A Study of Education’s Impact on Individual Attitudes toward Foreign Countries, International Interactions (2021). Free Access until December 31, 2021>>

In a recently published book, Caplan (2018) argues that public investment in education is a waste of time and money. Specifically, he sees education as a tool that signals to employers an employee’s intelligence, diligence, productivity, and suitability for employment. In this regard, educational credentials serve to indirectly inform employers of the employee’s value in domestic labor markets. Nonetheless, since these abilities and traits pre-exist regardless of one’s academic achievements, formal education does not teach students useful skills for employment. Arguably, returns on investment in education, as suggested by Caplan, may not be large enough at the micro level, but education plays other critical roles at the macro level, beyond individual and national boundaries. First, education represents human capital. In an open economy, when people’s skill levels are consistent with their country’s factor endowments, they become “winners” in global markets and may thus favor trade liberalization and economic interdependence. Second, schooling socializes individuals to be trusting, informed, and open-minded toward foreign cultures, so those who are educated are less likely to be xenophobic, chauvinistic, or ethnonationalist. Accordingly, education is conducive to international cooperation and interstate relations by fostering pro-globalization and pro-foreigner public opinions, either in a utilitarian or socializing way. Aside from mere signaling in domestic labor markets, education has the potential to ameliorate intergroup attitudes cross-nationally, which can lay the (mass attitudinal) groundwork for a more collaborative, harmonious, and peaceful world community.

Many social science studies have lent credence to the significant relationship between education and pro-outsider attitudes, but debates over the underlying mechanism persist. On the one hand, according to the factor endowments model in international trade, highly-educated citizens (regarded as capital owners and skilled workers) in developed capital-abundant countries, for instance, can materially benefit from economic linkages with less-developed labor-abundant countries. Based on utilitarian cost-benefit analyses, individuals with higher educational attainment are more likely to hold a favorable image of other states, on account of economic welfare gained through bilateral trade. On the other hand, from a social psychological viewpoint, education cultivates social trust, facilitates intergroup contact and information, and expands breadth of social perspective, all of which can mitigate ingroup-versus-outgroup categorization. As a result, well-educated people are less susceptible to ingroup bias and more tolerant of cultural otherness. This article attempts to systematically delve into the “education-outgroup attitudes” black box and test which approach exerts a greater influence over individual attitudes toward foreign countries.

My research builds on and contributes to the existing literature in two manners. First, I make comparisons between the utilitarian effect (based on international trade theory) and the socializing effect (based on social identity theory) of education on outgroup attitudes, and find evidence for the latter approach. In particular, I generalize the extant findings on education and trade preferences by examining attitudes toward foreign countries and including both developed and developing economies. In theory, individuals are beneficiaries of free trade on condition that their skill levels are in line with their country’s relative factor abundance. Following the factor endowments model, international political economy scholarship has consistently found that better-educated people in developed countries are more pro-trade, but scholars largely overlook the other side of the coin: Less-educated people in developing countries are also expected to be pro-trade, which nevertheless lacks sufficient empirical evidence due to data limitations. Besides, I focus not on trade policy preferences but on attitudes toward foreign countries in this article. If citizens do correctly make economic evaluation on trade as suggested by previous research, it is plausible to propose that they apply and extend this evaluation to important trading partners whose markets and/or imports can considerably affect their employment and economic situation. In this case, outgroup attitudes are contingent upon not only individual education levels but also their country’s as well as trading partners’ factor endowments. Therefore, in a break with past studies on trade preferences, I distinguish between the utilitarian impact of education on opinion of foreign countries in developed and developing countries.

Second, with respect to the socializing approach, I further investigate three potential pathways—social trust, information, and breadth of social perspective—linking schooling to outgroup attitudes. As a complement to prior work predominantly centering on citizens or nations in the West, this study uses images of the United States, China, and Japan in East Asia as examples and finds that the positive educational effect is mainly mediated by an expanded social perspective—an internationalist, cosmopolitan worldview. Echoing the microfoundations of constructivism in international relations, world politics and state behavior are fundamentally explained by identity. Given an inclusive superordinate identity and a broad social perspective, well-educated citizens are less likely to assess interstate relations in a mutually exclusive, zero-sum way. In this regard, global policymakers may more comprehensively consider education’s benefits beyond employment, economic growth, and poverty relief. More generally, international cooperation and globalization have been confronted with and challenged by rising ethnopopulism, trade protectionism, and xenophobia in recent years. As some researchers point out, the strongest anti-foreign attitudes primarily come from unskilled less-educated people intolerant of socioeconomic problems caused by immigration, trade, interconnection, and openness. Apart from welfare spending and skill training, another complementary policy suggestion is the cultivation of an internationalist, cosmopolitan outlook in schooling. In practice, developing and expanding education may be a slow yet promising method to construct a shared “global we” identity and protect a collaborative international community from extreme ethnocentrism and nationalism.
Full article >>

Qui bono? Foreign military, economic, diplomatic interventions, and the termination of civil wars: An integrative approach | October 2021

Huseyin Ilgaz, Qui bono? Foreign military, economic, diplomatic interventions, and the termination of civil wars: An integrative approach, International Interactions (2021). Free Access until December 31, 2021>>

As the civil war in Yemen continues to claim numerous lives daily, many international actors, including the United States, United Nations, and others, are debating the use of military, economic, and diplomatic interventions to deal with the conflict. Yet, we do not know enough about the effects of external interventions in stopping civil conflicts, especially when multiple and various types of interventions are deployed in the same dispute, as is the case in Yemen.

Breaking with tradition, I propose a more extensive bargaining model that integrates multiple types of interventions—military, economic, and diplomatic—that may be employed in a given conflict. The new framework analyzes how the interventions—either alone or in combination with others—shift the balance of power, often partly because interventions reveal previously private information regarding the actual capacities of the warring parties. By including the asymmetrical aspects of civil wars in the framework, the article argues and demonstrates that, although rebel-sided interventions usually produce their desired effect by enhancing the opposition’s military capacity, state-sided interventions tend to backfire and ultimately undermine the government.

Results from this study suggest that the inclusion of multiple intervention types when analyzing the impact of external interventions on civil war outcomes enables a more rigorous and comprehensive understanding of foreign involvement.

The ability to test the effects of multiple interventions also has significant implications for policymakers. First, this study offers possible strategies for dealing with civil wars by establishing the likely outcomes of using specific intervention(s) in particular conflicts.

Furthermore, this study suggests specific time windows for when and how each intervention could be most effective in producing specific outcomes. Interventions that occur too early and/or are not combined with certain intervention types may not produce desired consequences in a civil war. Full article >>

Looking for more? Explore previous International Interactions blog posts by topic:

Conflict   Human Rights   Leadership   Political Economy