Can political inequalities be educated away? Evidence from a Swedish school reform
Over the years, many suggestions have been made on how to reduce the importance of family background in political recruitment. In this study, we examine the effectiveness of one such proposal: the expansion of mass education. More precisely, we utilize a difference-in-difference strategy to analyze how a large school reform launched in Sweden in the 1950s, which lengthened compulsory schooling and postponed tracking, affected the likelihood of individuals with different family backgrounds to run for public office. The data comes from public registers and pertains to the entire Swedish population born between 1943 and 1955. Overall, the empirical analysis provides strong support for the view that improved educational opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds can be an effective means to reduce the importance of family background in political recruitment. According to our estimates, the Swedish comprehensive school reform served to reduce the effect of family background on the likelihood of running for public office by up to 40 percent.