Does education foster voter participation? : an empirical study using a Norwegian school reform
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- CELE - Master thesis 
There is a common agreement that education is an essential part of a stable democracy. This is based on the belief that education encourages citizens to participate in democratic processes, and provides them with the knowledge to understand and accept political principles, as well as necessary skills to become politically engaged. A vast body of research has established that there is a correlation between education and voter participation. However, few have been able to estimate the causal effect. We contribute to accumulating research on the causal effect of education on voter participation using the Norwegian school reform from 1960 that extended the years of compulsory schooling from seven to nine, creating an exogenous shock in school attendance among Norwegian pupils. First, we apply the method of instrumental variables (IV). We use Norwegian Election Surveys as our main data source. We find no significant effect of reform implementation on level of education (first stage estimates). Second, we exploit the staggered implementation of the reform in a differences-in-differences approach using municipality level data. We do not find a causal effect of education on voter participation. This is possibly due to the absence of registration laws that represent voting barriers in Norway. Heterogeneity tests reveal a negative effect of education on voter participation in the municipalities with relatively high unemployment and low taxable income per tax payer. These effects are possibly due to citizen migration.