Organizing for Education: A Cross-National, Longitudinal Study of Civil Society Organizations and Education Outcomes

Abstract

We address two views from organization theory to consider the expansion and effects of nonprofits in education: first, a functional view emphasizing the direct effect of work of civil society organizations (CSOs) and, second, a phenomenological neoinstitutional view focusing on the cultural meaning of education CSOs as indicators of a rationalized, liberal world society. We use panel regression models with country fixed effects to analyze the cross-national expansion of domestic education CSO sectors in 130 countries from 1970 to 2014. We then examine the association between the size of the domestic education CSO sector and memberships in international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) with education outcomes, including spending, education aid, secondary and tertiary enrollments, and the share of women in secondary and tertiary education. Results show that INGO memberships, an expanded state, and an expanded education system are highly associated with the expansion of a domestic education CSO sector. Both domestic CSOs and INGO memberships tend to have a significant, positive relationship with education outcomes net of other factors. We also find preliminary evidence indicating that the causal forces at play are more complex than a straightforward direct effect of education CSOs doing good work. Specifically, CSOs, at least in part, are indicators of a Western, liberal model of a proper modern society; the underpinning culture, represented by CSOs, accounts for some educational expansion above and beyond the benefit (or harm) caused by any given entity.

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Fig. 1

Source: adapted from Salamon et al. 1999: 17

Notes

  1. 1.

    We use the term “civil society organization (CSO)” to refer to domestic organizations in part because alternatives such as “non-government organization (NGO)” or “non-profit/not-for-profit organization” sometimes connote, respectively, international work or US-based organizations. We also avoid the term “association” because our sample includes only entities that are identified as formal organizations, versus looser forms of voluntary life. At the global level, we use the term “international non-governmental organization (INGO)” to be consistent with the dominant term in prior research in this area (e.g., Boli and Thomas, 1997, 1999). We provide more information on specific definitions in “data and methods” section.

  2. 2.

    Social capital is presumed to generate other positive externalities as well, such as trust and increased citizenship skills, leading to benefits such as decreased crime, decreased political corruption, increased volunteering, and even better health (Coleman 1988; Kawachi 1999).

  3. 3.

    Missing data in earlier years were supplemented with comparable data from UNESCO Yearbooks (defunct countries, such as East Germany, are not covered in current World Bank data files). Gaps shorter than 5 years were filled using linear interpolation (mainly an issue prior to 1980). These additions to our measure do not change results, but permit a more complete dataset.

  4. 4.

    Rescaling does not affect the results.

  5. 5.

    Other measures of state expansion measures are also positive, but often not significant.  State expenditures per capita are consistently positive and significant in our models after egregious outliers (e.g., Gambia) are removed.  

    .

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Bromley, P., Schofer, E. & Longhofer, W. Organizing for Education: A Cross-National, Longitudinal Study of Civil Society Organizations and Education Outcomes. Voluntas 29, 526–540 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-018-9979-9

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Keywords

  • Education
  • Institutional theory
  • Nonprofits
  • Civil society organizations