In 1970, only three countries – Italy, Japan and Mauritius – banned corporal punishment in schools. By 2016, more than 100 countries banned the practice, which allows teachers to legally hit, paddle or spank students for misbehavior.
The dramatic increase in bans on corporal punishment in schools is documented in an analysis that we conducted recently to learn more about the forces behind the trend. The analysis is available as a working paper.
In order to figure out what circumstances led to bans, we looked at a variety of political, legal, demographic, religious and economic factors. Two factors stood out from the rest.
First, countries with English legal origin – that is, the United Kingdom as well as its former colonies that implemented British common law – were less likely to ban corporal punishment in schools across this time period.
Second, countries with higher levels of female political empowerment, as measured by things such as women’s political participation or property rights – that is, women having the right to sell, buy and own property – were more likely to ban corporal punishment.
Other factors, such as form of government, level of economic development, religious adherence and population size, appear to play a much less significant role, if at all.
We are experts in education policy, international policy and law. In order to conduct our analysis, we constructed a dataset of 192 countries over 47 years using country reports from the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children and the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Then we matched it to data from the Quality of Government Institute.