Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Uppsala University, Department of Economics

No 2013:13: Does Higher Education Cause Political Participation?: Evidence From a Regression Discontinuity Design

Alex Solis ()
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Alex Solis: Department of Economics, Postal: Uppsala University, P.O. Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract: Education has been considered by political economy and political science literature one of the most important factors explaining political participation: voter turnout, civic engagement, political knowledge, and democratic attitudes. However, only few papers have explored the causal link with contradictory findings. In this paper, I use the eligibility criteria for two loan programs in Chile, that produce an exogenous variation on higher education enrollment, to test the causal effects of higher education and college on two measures of political participation: voter registration and affiliation with a political party. Using administrative individual data from the universe of voters, I find evidence that the relationship is statistically zero. Moreover, the relationship is zero when the data is analyzed by income, sex or by different background measures. A survey from a representative sample of the population allows a RD analysis that indicates that higher education do not cause changes in attitudes towards democracy, political knowledge, participation in demonstrations or in civic organizations, but it does cause overreporting on voting registration.

Keywords: political participation; college; higher education; voting registration; overreporting

JEL-codes: I21; I25

48 pages, March 1, 2012

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