Patron-Client Relationships and Low Education among Youth in Kano, Nigeria


Based on an analysis of original social network data collected from 407 households in an urban community in Northern Nigeria, this article evaluates whether patronage relationships between households have consequences for children’s educational attainment. A “social resources” perspective suggests that patronage ties may serve as a form of social capital that activates upward social mobility for entire families, thereby yielding more than simple transitory returns on social connections. An alternative “social constraints” perspective suggests that patronage ties may have no effects (or negative effects) on the schooling of clients’ children, since patron-clientage reflects prevailing social inequalities and exists for reasons other than the promotion of dynastic mobility among clients and their families. In the case study reported in this article, the latter pattern holds, and the results are interpreted with reference to the historical record, which shows that a latent function of patron-clientage is the preservation of intergenerational status immobility.