Orphans and Political Instability


  • For replication purposes, data and coding information are available from John Ishiyama. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association. We thank the reviewers and the editor for their constructive and helpful comments.

Direct correspondence to John Ishiyama, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle #305340, Denton, TX 76203 〈John.Ishiyama@unt.edu〉.



This study investigates the security implications of growing orphan populations, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Little has been written about the security implications of this especially vulnerable group of children. Are growing orphan populations associated with increases in political instability as has been suggested?


Using data from several sources, we employ regression analysis to test whether Sub-Saharan African countries with larger proportions of orphans and those with increasing orphan populations experience higher rates of political instability.


We find that the increase in the orphan population is related to an increasing incidence of civil conflict, but do not find a similar relationship for the proportion of orphans. In addition, we find that the causes of orphanhood matter.


We conclude that increases in orphan populations (rather than simple proportions) are destabilizing. We suggest possible avenues for mediating the security risks posed by growing orphan populations.