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The Curse of Knowledge? Education, Corruption, and Politics

Journal article
Authors Mattias Agerberg
Published in Political Behavior
Volume 41
Issue 2
Pages 369–399
ISSN 0190-9320
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 369–399
Language en
Keywords Corruption, Education, Political attitudes, Political behavior
Subject categories Political Science


Education has consistently been found to be positively related to political participation, electoral turnout, civic engagement, political knowledge, and democratic attitudes and opinions. Previous research has, however, not sufficiently acknowledged the large existing between- and within-country variations in institutional quality when studying this relationship. This study asks the question: how do highly educated, well-informed, and critical citizens react to a political system with low-quality institutions; a system with high levels of corruption? Researchers have in recent years started to acknowledge corruption as a relevant factor in explaining democratic attitudes and behavior. However, how corruption interacts with individual characteristics in shaping political behavior is largely unexplored in the literature. This paper focuses on the interaction between corruption and education with regard to different political attitudes and democratic behavior. Using both individual- and country-level data from 31 democracies the results show that corruption thwarts many of the positive effects of education with regard to politics: The results indicate that when corruption is high, educated and politically sophisticated citizens are as likely as low-educated citizens to feel resignation with regard to formal political institutions. This, in turn, is likely to affect patterns of political participation among these citizens.

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