The Journal of Politics


Does Education Increase Political Participation?

Alexander K. Mayera1

a1 University of California, Davis


The consensus among scholars has long held that educational advancement causes greater political participation. Recent research, however, argues that previous empirical analyses of this relationship cannot be used to draw causal inferences. This recent work strongly suggests that selection mechanisms confound previous results, and it employs propensity score matching to argue that education has no effect. In this article I show how propensity score matching, as recently applied to this question, introduces bias by creating poorly matched treatment and control groups. I analyze the same data, realigning the treatment with theories of political participation, and I use genetic matching to create balanced treatment and control groups. I then subject the results to a variety of tests, providing a stronger foundation for causal inference. The estimates provide consistent evidence that, contrary to recent results, educational advancement increases political participation.

(Online publication August 03 2011)


Alexander K. Mayer is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, 95616.