Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy

No 2014:29: Can political inequalities be educated away? Evidence from a Swedish school reform

Karl-Oskar Lindgren (), Sven Oskarsson () and Christopher T Dawes ()
Additional contact information
Karl-Oskar Lindgren: IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy, Postal: P O Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Sven Oskarsson: Department of Government, Uppsala University, Postal: Uppsala, Sweden
Christopher T Dawes: Department of Politics, New York University, Postal: New York, USA

Abstract: Over the years, many suggestions have been made on how to reduce the importance of family background in political recruitment. In this study, we examine the effectiveness of one such proposal: the expansion of mass education. More precisely, we utilize a difference-in-difference strategy to analyze how a large school reform launched in Sweden in the 1950s, which lengthened compulsory schooling and postponed tracking, affected the likelihood of individuals with different family backgrounds to run for public office. The data comes from public registers and pertains to the entire Swedish population born between 1943 and 1955. Overall, the empirical analysis provides strong support for the view that improved educational opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds can be an effective means to reduce the importance of family background in political recruitment. According to our estimates, the Swedish comprehensive school reform served to reduce the effect of family background on the likelihood of running for public office by up to 40 percent.

Keywords: Political inequality; political participation; political candidacy; inequality; education

JEL-codes: H70; I24

58 pages, December 19, 2014

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