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Does education or underlying human capital explain liberal economic attitudes?


  • John V.C. Nye

    () (George Mason University, Department of Economics.)

  • Sergiy Polyachenko

    () (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Center for Institutional Studies. Junior Research Fellow)


There is a worldwide tendency for more educated people to trust in markets, private business, and trade, and to distrust government regulation and public provision relative to the less educated even in countries where people generally favor regulation (Aghion, et al. 2010). Individual survey data drawn from the Russian RMLS indicate that for Russia, as for most of the world, respondents with higher levels of education are more likely to trust private businesses and privatization, to distrust government regulation, and to favor lesser provision of services by the State (vs. the private sector). This matches the macro survey findings of Aghion et al. (2010) for the transition economies and the work of Caplan (2001, 2002, 2007). However, it is not clear whether education is a causal factor in these preferences or whether education is proxying for different levels of cognitive ability, health, or other forms of human capital. We use individual height data as instruments for formal education to remove the contemporaneous effects of schooling itself on the education-trust link. We find that this IV estimation leaves us with clear and persistent links between education and market friendly attitudes in Russia. This human capital effect is also quite independent of the role of age in determining liberal attitudes and is not simply a cohort effect. This seems to conform to the worldwide observation that – whatever the independent changing institutions – greater health and cognitive ability seem to promote market liberal beliefs in and of themselves. In contrast, socially liberal attitudes are not correlated with education in the IV regressions

Suggested Citation

  • John V.C. Nye & Sergiy Polyachenko, 2013. "Does education or underlying human capital explain liberal economic attitudes?," HSE Working papers WP BRP 40/EC/2013, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hig:wpaper:40/ec/2013

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Caplan, Bryan, 2001. "What Makes People Think Like Economists? Evidence on Economic Cognition from the "Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy."," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 395-426, October.
    2. Dee, Thomas S., 2004. "Are there civic returns to education?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1697-1720, August.
    3. Dean Spears, 2012. "How much international variation in child height can sanitation explain?," Working Papers 1438, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
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    More about this item


    Non-cognitive abilities; human capital; IV; trust; market liberal preferences; Russia;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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