The Effect of Education on Political Knowledge: Evidence From Monozygotic Twins

Aaron C. Weinschenk, Christopher T. Dawes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Political scientists have long been interested in the determinants of political knowledge. In many studies, education is the strongest predictor of political knowledge. However, some studies have found that education has no effect on knowledge once confounding variables are taken into account. In addition, some recent work suggests that education remains the strongest predictor of knowledge even after accounting for confounders like personality traits and intelligence. We provide new evidence on the effect of education on political knowledge by utilizing the co-twin control design. By looking at the relationship between education and knowledge within monozygotic twin pairs, we are able to circumvent sources of confounding of the relationship due to genetic factors and early-life family environment because monozygotic twins share both. We find that the relationship between education and political knowledge is highly confounded by genes and/or familial environment. The results from a naive model that does not take into account unobserved family factors indicate that education has a positive and statistically significant effect on political knowledge. However, in a twin fixed-effects model that accounts for confounding due to genetic factors and familial socialization, we find that the effect of education on political knowledge drops substantially and is not statistically significant at conventional levels.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)530-548
    Number of pages19
    JournalAmerican Politics Research
    Volume47
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    StatePublished - May 1 2019

    Keywords

    • co-twin control design
    • discordant twin design
    • education
    • monozygotic twins
    • political knowledge

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

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