Does Education Cause Political Participation? A New Take on an Old Question (Principal investigator).
Why is it that some people are more politically engaged and interested than others? This is one of the key questions within political science. Education has for long been considered the most important variable in explaining differences in political engagement between people. Some researchers have even gone so far as to claim that clarification of the strong link between education and political participation is one of the few major contributions of political science to humanity’s bank of general knowledge. In recent years, however, a number of critical voices have been raised against the interpretation that the strong empirical association between education and political participation is a causal one. More specifically, the possibility has been pointed out that the same underlying factors may influence both an individual’s choice of education and their political commitment. If this is the case we should rather interpret the connection between education and political participation as non-causal or spurious. A problem with much of the previous research on the topic is that it has relied on designs and methods that make it difficult to distinguish between correlation and causation. In this project we seek to overcome this problem by utilizing two different approaches. First, we will make use of various natural experiment related to the Swedish school system. Second, we will employe a co-twin design to study the relationship between education and political participation within twin pairs.
Schooled in Democracy? The Effects on Political Inequality of two School Reforms (Co-investigator).
Encouraging the ability of children and young people to think and act democratically has been one of the main aims of Swedish education policy throughout the post-war period. During this period Swedish education policy has also been characterized by a clear ideal of equality. The argument that equal access to education for children from different social backgrounds will generate equal opportunity has been at the heart of many of the reforms in school policy that have been introduced over the last century. Much of the research into the effects of different educational reforms has therefore centred on how the changes in the education system have affected social equality in various respects with regard to academic achievement, recruitment to higher education, and choice of occupation and income. On the other hand there is only limited research into how the school reforms have affected political equality in society. This is surprising both against the background of the great significance attached to the role of the school as promoter of democracy in various control documents and against the background of how poorly the occurrence of socioeconomic differences in the political area squares with the democratic maxim of “one person, one vote”. This project aims to fill this lacunae in previous research by examining to what extent school reforms can affect the degree of political inequality in a society. More specifically we will study the extent to which two of the major educational reforms of the twentieth century in Sweden, the nine-year compulsory school reform of 1962 and the upper secondary school reform of 1991, helped to reduce the differences in political participation between individuals of different social, backgrounds. This will be done in part with the aid of statistical analyses based on unique Swedish register data, in part with the aid of qualitative in-depth interviews with individuals who were the subject of these reform.
The Underrepresentation of Immigrants in Politics (Co-investigator).
Immigrants are severely underrepresented in city halls and national parliaments around the world. In most European countries and even in traditional immigration destinations, the share of immigrants who hold elected office is much lower than their share in the population. Sweden is also part of this trend. The fact that substantial parts of the population face barriers when seeking to enter electoral politics poses deep challenges to democratic practice and norms. In this project we study the origins of the underrepresentation of immigrants. Our previous research has shown that, in Sweden, immigrants are about half as likely to be elected to local government as are natives, and that even when comparing immigrants and natives with comparable individual-level resources and who face similar political opportunity structures a large representation gap remains. While our existing work has significantly advanced our knowledge about the factors that are associated with immigrants’ successful entry into political life, future work is necessary to pinpoint why immigrants feel discouraged from running for office and what the role of party elites is in this process. To find answers to these questions, we propose to build on our existing work, which has used registry based data and to conduct targeted surveys and interviews of the immigrant and native population as well as members of nomination committees. We intend to find out how immigrants’ perceptions of the political process and of their chances of winning elected office differ from those of natives and, further, how and whether these perceptions help drive immigrant political underrepresentation.
Global Economic Crisis, Institutional Change and Inequality in Comparative Perspective (Co-investigator).
In this project the political and social consequences of the global financial crisis is analyzed from a broad comparative perspective. The focus is on the development in industrialized and developed democracies. Three types of consequences, in particular, are examined: i) effects on welfare and labor market institutions, ii) effects on political attitudes and political participation, iii) effects involving the interaction between institutional and individual circumstances.