The CONPOL team are pleased to announce a new publication in Economic of Education Review: “Access to education and political candidacy: Lessons from school openings in Sweden.” In this paper we examine how availability of education affects who becomes a political representative. Theorists have pointed out that access to education is a key to a well-functioning democracy, but few empirical studies have examined how changes in the access to education influence the chances of becoming a politician. In this paper, we analyze the effects of a large series of school openings in Sweden during the early 20th century, which provided adolescents with better access to secondary education. We use administrative data pertaining to the entire Swedish population born between 1916 and 1945. According to our empirical results, the opening of a new lower secondary school in a municipality increased the baseline probability of running for political office by 10–20%, and the probability of holding office by 20–30%.
The CONPOL team are pleased to announce a new publication in the American Political Science Review: “Enhancing Electoral Equality: Can Education Compensate for Family Background Differences in Voting Participation?” The departure point of this study is the well documented fact that voter turnout is lower among persons who grow up in families from a low socioeconomic status compared with persons from high-status families. The paper examines whether reforms in education can help reduce this gap. We establish causality by exploiting a pilot scheme preceding a large reform of Swedish upper secondary education in the early 1990s, which gave rise to exogenous variation in educational attainment between individuals living in different municipalities or born in different years. Similar to recent studies employing credible identification strategies, we fail to find a statistically significant average effect of education on political participation. We move past previous studies,however, and show that the reform nevertheless contributed to narrowing the voting gap between individuals of different social backgrounds by raising turnout among those from low socioeconomic statushouseholds. The results thus square well with other recent studies arguing that education is particularlyimportant for uplifting politically marginalized groups.
The paper is published as open access and is available here.
CONPOL PI Sven Oskarsson together with CONPOL member Rafael Ahlskog received a 5.8 MSEK grant from RJ (the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation) for a project with the title: “Nature via Nurture: Using novel methods to shed new light on how gene-environment interactions shape social, economic and political attitudes and behavior”. The project revolves around fundamental about the origins of social, economic and political inequalities in life course outcomes between individuals. Why are some people more likely to be highly educated, end up in high status jobs, be healthier and live longer, be more politically engaged, and, in general, happier than others? Recent interdisciplinary research suggests that complex human behaviors and life chances may be shaped by an intricate interplay between genes and environment. However, the knowledge of how these so called gene-by-environment interactions actually work is limited: what genetic factors interact with what social, economic and political factors, and how? The dearth of stable and reproducible progress in this area has in large parts been due to two severe problems: limitations in the available scientific methods and shortage of adequate data. In this project we intend to overcome these problems by making use of recent innovations in molecular genetics and methodological advances in the social sciences in combination with unique Swedish register data. Thus, the goal of the project is to investigate in a robust and credible way how gene-environment interactions shape social, economic, and political attitudes and behavior. In the end, a more solid foundation for the research on gene-environment interactions can also aid in developing more effective policies that deal with the social roots and consequences of inequality. You can find more information about the project here.
The project is closely related to some of the major themes in the CONPOL framework, especially questions regarding how political engagement is shaped within the family context, and will be carried out in collaboration with several of the CONPOL team members.
The CONPOL team are pleased to announce a new publication in Political Behavior: “It Runs in the Family: A Study of Political Candidacy Among Swedish Adoptees.” Recent work has shown that early life parental socialization is strongly associated with a desire to run for office. However, parents not only shape their children’s political environment, they also pass along their genes to those same children. A growing area of research has shown that individual differences in a wide range of political behaviors and attitudes are linked to genetic differences. As a result, genetic factors may confound the observed political similarities among parents and their children. This study analyzes Swedish register data containing information on all nominated and elected candidates in the ten parliamentary, county council, and municipal elections from 1982 to 2014 for a large sample of adoptees and their adoptive and biological parents. By studying the similarity in political ambition within both adoptive and biological families, our research design allows us to disentangle so-called “pre-birth” factors, such as genes and pre-natal environment, and “post-birth” factors like parental socialization. We find that the likelihood of standing as a political candidate is twice as high if one’s parent has been a candidate. We also find that the effects of pre-birth and post-birth factors are approximately equal in size. In addition, we test a number of potential pre- and post-birth transmission mechanisms. First, disconfirming our expectations, the pre-birth effects do not seem to be mediated by cognitive ability or leadership skills. Second, consistent with a role modeling mechanism, we find evidence of a strong transmission in candidacy status between rearing mothers and their daughters.
The paper is published as open access and is available here.