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date: 03 July 2022

Education, Inequality, and Political Behaviorlocked

Education, Inequality, and Political Behaviorlocked

  • Mark BovensMark BovensSchool of Governance, Utrecht University
  •  and Anchrit WilleAnchrit WilleInstitute of Public Administration, Leiden University

Summary

Educational level is one of the strongest factors in explaining how citizens behave in politics. Political scientists have shown time and again that the higher their level of formal education, the more people are interested in politics, the more they trust politicians, and the more they participate in politics. A strong educational gradient can be observed at almost every form of participation, and in many Western liberal democracies. Far less attention has been given to the political consequences of this gap in participation between the well- and the less-educated.

In the 21st century, educational level has turned out to be a driver behind the rise of new social and political divides in Western democracies. Increasingly, education is studied separately from class or income as a source of political attitudes, political behavior, and social and political inequalities. It is a very relevant factor to understand the contours of the contemporary political landscape in consolidated Western democracies. Traditional cleavages are eroding, and rising levels of education have been creating new social groups and new political inequalities between educational groups.

In many Western democracies, the well-educated have come to dominate democratic institutions. This rise of a political meritocracy has led to policy incongruences in favor of the well-educated and is a source of resentment among the lesser-educated. For example, education has been one of the main explanatory factors in the vote for Brexit, the support for Trump in the United States, and the election of Macron and the rise of the Yellow Vests movement in France.

Subjects

  • Groups and Identities
  • Political Sociology
  • Political Values, Beliefs, and Ideologies

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