FY 10: The Cost of Statelessness: A Livelihoods Analysis (Kingston University)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
November 17, 2017


This project gathered and analyzed quantitative and qualitative data to compare the livelihoods of stateless persons and citizens in Bangladesh, Kenya, Slovenia, and Sri Lanka. Led by Kingston University with funding from PRM, the research teams surveyed approximately 300 individuals and conducted in-depth interviews with 15 households in each country. The study employed a sustainable livelihoods approach to analyze empirical survey data on: human capital (e.g., education, skills, health), social networks, access to land and other natural resources, physical capital (e.g., shelter, transportation, sanitation, jewelry) and financial capital (e.g., income, savings). The study also examined the effects of statelessness on freedom of religion, security, community and political participation, as well as gender parity.


Citizenship plays an important role in determining households’ livelihood outcomes in all four countries, resulting in a high cost of statelessness on families and human development. This research provides evidence that statelessness negatively impacts household income, educational attainment, health, property ownership and ability to acquire other assets. The research did not find any impact of statelessness on freedom of religion. Statelessness also does not directly affect gender parity, although the research shows that gender is a leading indicator of education, which affects income and other livelihood outcomes. Major research findings include:

• Statelessness reduces household income and expenditures by 33 percent on average as compared with citizens. Bangladesh shows the greatest disparity with recently stateless households’ income 74 percent less than that of citizens, while Sri Lanka shows the least disparity at 11 percent.

• Statelessness reduces opportunities for education. Educational levels are lower in stateless households than long-standing citizen households in all four countries. In Kenya, for example, the average education of stateless persons (grade 7) is again lower than that of citizens (grade 10). In Bangladesh, the average education of recently stateless persons (grade 3) is much lower than that of citizens (grade 9), and all households with zero average education are stateless.

• Statelessness reduces the odds of owning a house by nearly 60 percent on average.

Qualitative interviews also produced insights into the experiences of stateless people. A stateless Nubian in Kenya said, “We are permanently preoccupied with belonging rather [than] developing.” A formerly “erased” Slovenian who recently acquired nationality said, “It is like being outside in winter when it is cold or being inside where it is warm.” Among its conclusions, the study recommends that:

• Stateless persons should be included in international development strategies and programming; and,

• Governments should ensure that stateless or formerly stateless persons residing on their territory have equal access to education at all levels, and should target job creation programs and micro-enterprise or savings programs for stateless or formerly stateless persons.

PRM will use these findings and recommendations to:

• Work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to address livelihoods and education in its advocacy, technical assistance and programming on behalf of stateless persons, including by deepening its collaboration with development actors;

• Increase engagement on statelessness issues with development agencies, including USAID, the UN Development Program, UN Women, UNICEF, and the World Bank; and,

• Inform the Bureau’s monitoring and evaluation of UNHCR’s statelessness activities in country operations.

For the full report, contact PRM-PRPPolicy@state.gov.