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The impact of education on
political ideology:
Evidence from European compulsory
education reforms
Andrew G. Meyer
A presentation by Alessia De Santo and Camilla Fiorina
2
INTRODUCTION
▹
Evidence from previous studies (Dunn, 2011; Weakliem, 2002; Weil, 1985)
→ correlation between educational attainment and political ideology
Results: education pushes individuals to political left.
▹
Problem: endogeneity of education was not taken into account →
Omitted Variable Bias
3
1. Which measure can be used to for eudcational attainment?
Compulsory education laws
Unobserved variables (personality or
parents income/ideology) may affect
both educational attainment and
ideology.
Changes in compulsory education
laws in 20th century Europe
→
exogenous shift
in educational
attainment, not related to ideology.
2. Which indicator for political ideology?
Self identified left-right (L-R) placement on a scale
Conceptual associations of “left” and
“right” is correlated with education
and self-placement on the scale”
(Bauer et al., 2015).
Educational attainment estimated with RDD:
compare individuals born just prior/after a
reform → conceptual associations similar
across these two groups.
4
POLITICAL SCIENCE
LITERATURE
Self-interest theory:
Socialization theory:
Higher levels of education → higher
incomes → right-wing identity out of
self-interest
Political attitudes are transmitted to
students through social learning
processes.
Powdthavee and Oswald (2014)
Weakliem’s (2002): core values thesis.
Development theory:
More education → more liberal ideology → more left-wing political identity
(Phelan, Link, Stueve, & Moore, 1995).
5
DATA
Left-right political ideology
▸
▸
25 waves of Eurobarometer
surveys from October 2004 to March
2012 with a question about political
identification.
Face-to-face interviews on ~ 1000
individuals (per wave) from each
country
Compulsory education laws
▹
Recent papers: Borgonovi et al.
(2010), Brunello, Fabbri, and Fort
(2013), Gathmann et al. (2015).
▹
18 reforms (from 1928 to 1983) in 11
Western
EU
Countries
that
increases the min education level
by 1 to 4 yrs.
6
DATA – The Sample
▹
Individuals affected: born between 1917 and 1969
▹
Initial sample: 94,694 observation (bandwidth of ±10 years, then restricted)
▸
▸
Individuals with k ∈ [−10, −1] : pre- reform sample
Individuals with k ∈ [1, 10] : post- reform sample.
Where 𝑘 = years between a certain cohort and the pivot cohort (first cohort
potentially affected → must be excluded from the sample).
▹
Distribution of the data is symmetric, spike around “5” on the L-R scale
(centrist placement); on average no significant differences among countries
7
EMPIRICAL STRATEGY - 1
Goal
Estimate the impact of educational attainment on political ideology
Problem
Omitted variable bias
▹
▹
Unobserved factors may impact at the same time level of education and ideology
Education attainment is endogenous
Solution
Instrumental variable (IV) strategy
▹
Instrument: compulsory education laws (in Europe)
8
IMPACT OF COMPULSORY EDUCATION LAWS ON AVERAGE
EDUCATIONAL ATTEINMENT
Fig. 1. Education age vs. interval (k), bandwidth of 10
Fig. 2. Education age vs. interval (k), narrowed bandwidths
▹ Evidence of discontinuity in average educational attainment in the year of reform
9
EMPIRICAL STRATEGY – 2
▹ Fuzzy Regression Discontinuity design using two-equations model
specification for individual i from reform c
First stage
Second stage
▹ The pivot cohort must be excluded → “donut-hole” RD estimator
10
RESULTS
▹ Overall, statistically significant local average treatment effect (LATE)
of educational attainment on left-right ideology;
▹ Results are consistent to:
▸ different methods of estimation
▸ different bandwidhts
▸ both linear and quadratic controls
Beneficiaries of compulsory education laws are mostly those located in
the lower end of the education attainment distribution → results cannot
be applied to the general population
11
RESULTS – 2SLS
METHODOLOGY
▹ Outcome: continuous 10-point scale
▹ On average, an additional year of
educational attainment leads to an
approximate 0.25-point movement
to the right
▹ ~ 5% movement to the right
compared to the sample mean
▹ Similar results obtained for different
bandwidths → ± (2,3,4,5,6,8,9)
12
RESULTS – PROBIT
METHODOLOGY
▹
Outcome: latent index → dependent
variable coded into 3 (IVOP1) and 5
(IVOP2) categories
▹
Baseline results confirmed: an extra year
of educational attainment increases the
probability of falling into the right
category by ~𝟒%
13
WHICH THEORY IS SUPPORTED
BY THE DATA?
Socialization theory:
Self-interest theory:
Weak support → it may dampen or intensify
the self-interest movement to the right
Consistent with the findings
▹
UK, Netherlands, Italy : education reforms
increased income → consistently positive
estimates from the 2nd stage regression
▹
▹
Mixed results when grouping countries by
welfare
regimes (liberal, conservative,
social democratic)
France, Sweden: education reforms didn’t
significantly affect income → mixed results
▹
▹
But large standard errors
But results support the socialization theory
in countries where the self-interest theory
is supported
Development theory: not supported by the data
ROBUSTNESS CHECK
14
For all checks: bandwidth at ±7 years ; linear cohort controls.
▹ Sample restictions:
▸ include only countries with strongest evidence of the reforms
increasing educational attainment → LATE significant at 5% ;
▸ include pivot cohort → LATE significant at 10% ;
▹ Include survey wave fixed effect; Cluster SE at the reform level;
Include regional reforms in Germany → LATE significant at 5% ;
▹ Is a single country the most responsible for the results?
No significant evidence.
15
CONCLUSIONS
▹ Evidence: 1 extra year of education → average reform complier moves to the
right of the political continuum by approximately 5%;
▹ Causal mechanism goes from education to right ideology through increased
earnings (self-interest thesis);
▹ Omitted variables problems is crucial, ignoring it may give opposite and
contrasting results;
▹ Caveat: results apply for the specific instrument utilized and for the specific
subgroup of individuals affected by the instrument → these results cannot be
used to make inference in a different contexts.
16
REFERENCES
▹
Meyer, Andrew G., 2017. "The impact of education on political ideology:
Evidence from European compulsory education reforms" Economics of
Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 9-23.
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