RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATION AND POLITICS, AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION.


RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATION AND POLITICS, AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION.
INTRODUCTION
Education is generally considered to be among the strongest individual-level predictors of political participation. However, a number of studies points towards a more contextualized understanding of the relationship between education and political participation. The aim of our paper is to examine the effects of educational environments on individual-level political participation. For this purpose we investigate the effects of individual education relative to the level of education in their community. Our analysis is carried out on a Norwegian data set. Municipalities serve as the unit of aggregation for educational environment. We employ a comprehensive citizen survey comprising a total of more than 11.000 respondents covering most Norwegian municipalities as well as key variables characterizing the municipalities included in the survey. We rely on the distinction between individual and collective participatory forms in choosing party membership (mainly collective) and contacting of officials (mainly individual) as our dependent variables. The analyses reveal that the local educational level does have an impact on individual education when it comes to the probability of having contacted a local politician but not for party membership. Less educated individuals seem to become more like educated individuals (and the other way around) if they live in highly educated municipalities. The Norwegian case thus lends support to the relative educational model as we find that the higher the level of education in the environment, the smaller is the effect of individual-level education
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATION AND POLITICS, AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION.
What affects who participates in politics? In most studies of political behaviour it is found that individuals with higher education participate to a larger extent in political activities than individuals with lower education. According to conventional wisdom, education is supposed to increases civic skills and political knowledge that functions as the causal mechanisms triggering participation. However, recently a number of studies have started dealing with the question of whether education is a direct cause for political participation or merely works as a proxy for other factors, such as pre-adult socialization or social network centrality. This review article provides an introduction and critical discussion of this debate.
What affects who participates in politics? Many studies point out that education is of central importance. In most studies of political behaviour it is found that individuals with higher education participate to a larger extent in political activities than individuals with less education. Why do highly educated persons participate more in political activities? In their seminal work, Verba, Schlozman and Brady explain that: ‘Education enhances participation more or less directly by developing skills that are relevant to politics – the ability to speak and write, the knowledge of how to cope in an organizational setting’. And Lewis-Beck et al. point out that: ‘With more formal education comes a stronger interest in politics, a greater concern with elections, greater confidence in playing one’s role as a citizen, and a deeper commitment to the norm of being a good citizen. Hence, education increases skills and knowledge but might also affect political interest and efficacy; factors that all in turn trigger participation. Moreover, in a classic text, Converse went even further by emphasizing that education ‘is everywhere the universal solvent, and the relationship is always in the same direction. The higher the education, the greater the ‘‘good’’ values of the variable. This idea is, explicitly or implicitly, widely accepted in political behavior research and the relationship between education and political participation is perhaps the most well-established relationship that exists in research on political behavior.
THE CONVENTIONAL VIEW: THE ABSOLUTE EDUCATION MODEL
According to the absolute education model, illustrated by the solid line in Figure 1, education has a direct causal effect on political participation (and for that reason this model is sometimes synonymously referred to as the ‘education as a cause view’). Education increases civic skills and political knowledge, which function as the causal mechanisms triggering participation. This
is also sometimes referred to as ‘the cognitive pathway’, i.e. what individuals learn at school has positive effects on their cognitive ability, which in turn affect participation. In addition to skills
and knowledge, it has also been argued that education triggers political efficacy. Jackson explains this idea in this way: ‘Schooling enhances both the belief that the potential voter can influence what the government does (external efficacy) and the belief that the potential voter has the competence to understand and partici
pate in politics (internal efficacy)’.Hence, education increases citizens’ beliefs that they caneffectively play a role in the political process
According to this conventional view, the more education individuals have, the more likely they are to participate in politics. The model is referred to as the absolute education model since the effects of education are not dependent on the level of education in theenvironment. This model regards education effects as a process on the individual level. Numerous studies of political participation in Western democracies confirm this view.
However, most of these studies draw on cross- sectional data and the causal mechanisms are seldom directly tested. Even those that stick to the view that education is a direct cause have seldom presented evidence on exactly how and through which mechanisms education influences participation. Rather, when it comes to explaining effects of education it is common to describe
the mechanisms at work as ‘remaining hidden’ or as an ‘undeci
phered black box’. It should also be noted that there is no consensus on whether the effect of education is linear or whether it tapers off at some point. While many researchers simply test the
effects of ‘years of education’, others argue that it is in fact only higher education (college or equivalent) that is of major importance for participation. But to make the argument even more complicated, studies on the impact of college education even disagree on whether it is college attendance or college completion that is the relevant variable to study

CONCLUSION
Education is generally considered to be among the strongest individual-level predictors of political participation. However, a number of studies points towards a more contextualized understanding of the relationship between education and political participation. The aim of our paper is to examine the effects of educational environments on individual-level political participation. For this purpose we investigate the effects of individual education relative to the level of education in their community. Our analysis is carried out on a Norwegian data set. Municipalities serve as the unit of aggregation for educational environment. We employ a comprehensive citizen survey comprising a total of more than 11.000 respondents covering most Norwegian municipalities as well as key variables characterizing the municipalities included in the survey. We rely on the distinction between individual and collective participatory forms in choosing party membership (mainly collective) and contacting of officials (mainly individual) as our dependent variables. The analyses reveal that the local educational level does have an impact on individual education when it comes to the probability of having contacted a local politician but not for party membership. Less educated individuals seem to become more like educated individuals (and the other way around) if they live in highly educated municipalities. The Norwegian case thus lends support to the relative educational model as we find that the higher the level of education in the environment, the smaller is the effect of individual-level education

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