The association between education and political participation is one of the strongest and most reliable in American politics, but it is poorly understood. Whether human capital acquired through education affects participation remains unknown. Most studies of this question restrict measurement of human capital to years of schooling (attainment) or civics knowledge. But attainment is a weak instrument for human capital, which varies considerably within attainment levels. And skills beyond civics—particularly verbal communication skills—are politically important. With data from the National Education Longitudinal Study, I examine the relationship between verbal skills acquired in school during adolescence and participation later in life. I find a strong positive effect, showing that when young people learn to use their voices in school, they are more likely to speak up as participatory adults. The findings reveal an important mechanism by which education affects democratic life, call for a broadening of the empirical treatment of education in political science, and suggest an answer to the puzzle of participation.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 11, 2015
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