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Highland Household Survey: the Impacts of Legal Status on Access to Education and Social Services

"Highlanders without citizenship are 98% less likely to enter higher education than highlanders with citizenship."


UNESCO undertook a large household survey on the impact of legal status on access to education, health and other social services. In Thailand, highland ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented among stateless populations. In Thailand, the  lack of citizenship  is one of the main risk factors for trafficking, unsafe migration, and HIV. It is also the greatest factor contributing to exploitation and differential access to information and social services, such as education, health care, and land tenure. 30% to 60% of highlanders, residing predominately in the mountainous northern region of the country, are without Thai citizenship.

In order to better comprehend these issues, UNESCO has collaborated with the Thai Bureau of Social Development and Human Security (BSD) since 2004 to conduct the largest household survey of highland groups in northern Thailand to address statelessness and access to social services. The first wave of the survey took place in 2005 in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. The second wave was designed in order to increase the scope the survey, address gaps in knowledge, and identify socioeconomic and legal conditions of highland groups in light of recent policy changes concerning Thai educational, health, and citizenship issues. This second survey took place in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Tak, and Kanchanaburi (under funding from the UK Embassy Bangkok), as well as in Mae Hong Son under the “UN Joint Programme on Integrated Highland Livelihood Development in Mae Hong Son.

The survey instrument was developed by UNESCO in collaboration with multiple partners, translated back and forth between Thai and English, and tested several times with ethnic minority populations to limit misunderstandings and data collection errors.

In Mae Hong Son, data was collected in 57 villages, covering 3,582 households. 

  • View preliminary findings of the survey, developed by Ms Amanda Flaim, lead statistical consultant for the project here [pdf – 0.14MB ]

  • View a map showing the legal status of people, by district here.

Based on UNESCO Highland Household Survey I (2006). Findings significant at p<0.05 and derived through binominal logistic regression. Models control for ethnicity, age, village residence, village registration, primary school location, secondary school location, district and province.