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Does Education Improve Citizenship? Evidence from the U.S. and the U.K


  • Kevin Milligan
  • Enrico Moretti
  • Philip Oreopoulos


Many economists and educators of diverse political beliefs favor public support for education on the premise that a more educated electorate enhances the quality of democracy. While some earlier studies document an association between schooling and citizenship, little attempt has been made to address the possibility that unobservable characteristics of citizens underlie this relationship. This paper explores the effect of extra schooling induced through compulsory schooling laws on the likelihood of becoming politically involved in the US and the UK. We find that educational attainment is related to several measures of political interest and involvement in both countries. For voter turnout, we find a strong and robust relationship between education and voting for the US, but not for the UK. Using the information on validated voting, we find that misreporting of voter status can not explain our estimates. Our results suggest that the observed drop in voter turnout in the US from 1964 to 2000 would have been 10.4 to 12.3 percentage points greater if high school attainment had stayed at 1964 rates, holding all else constant. However, when we condition on registration, our US results approach the UK findings. This may indicate that registration rules present a barrier to low-educated citizens' participation.

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  • Kevin Milligan & Enrico Moretti & Philip Oreopoulos, 2003. "Does Education Improve Citizenship? Evidence from the U.S. and the U.K," NBER Working Papers 9584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9584
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John F. Helliwell & Robert D. Putnam, 2007. "Education and Social Capital," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 1-19, Winter.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Joshua Angrist, 2001. "How Large are Human-Capital Externalities? Evidence from Compulsory-Schooling Laws," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15, pages 9-74 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Harmon, Colm & Walker, Ian, 1995. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling for the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1278-1286, December.
    4. Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 155-189, March.
    5. Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2005. "The Relationship Between Education and Adult Mortality in the United States," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 189-221.
    6. Burden, Barry C., 2000. "Voter Turnout and the National Election Studies," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(04), pages 389-398, July.
    7. Costas Meghir & MÃ¥rten Palme, 2001. "The effect of a social experiment in education," IFS Working Papers W01/11, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    8. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Keueger, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014.
    9. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:89:y:1995:i:02:p:271-294_09 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Philip Oreopoulos, 2003. "Do Dropouts Drop Out Too Soon? Evidence from Changes in School-Leaving Laws," Working Papers oreo-03-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
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    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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