Liberal Democracy and Education-Based Inequality in the Post-Cold War Era
75 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2020
Date Written: January 5, 2020
A widely held belief about democracy is that it contributes to greater equality among citizens. We challenge this view by arguing that certain features of liberal democracy, including voluntary participation and protection of private rights, may exacerbate a particular form of inequality based on educational attainment. To substantiate this claim, we analyze two major cross-country, multi-year surveys matched to regime-level characteristics. Using both a within-country estimator and an instrumental variables approach, we find that the difference in emotional and material well-being between the more educated and less educated becomes substantially larger as a country's political institutions converge to the liberal democratic model. We provide further evidence on the posited mechanisms by showing that liberal democracy fosters a greater participation gap and more polarized economic attitudes between high- and low-education groups. We discuss the normative implications of our findings and their relevance for understanding the current wave of global populism.
Keywords: liberal democracy, democratization, education, inequality, survey, instrumental variables
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