The Universal Link Between Higher Education and Pro-market Values

John V.C. Nye (George Mason and NRU-HSE)
Cheryl Litman (George Mason)
Maksym Bryukhanov (NRU-HSE)
Sergiy Polyachenko (NRU-HSE)

Abstract: Does education promote support for liberal economic policies? Despite the wide range in attitudes exhibited in international surveys by respondents towards markets and the desirability of state regulation thereof, we document in a large cross-section of countries that – in almost all cases – those with higher educational attainment are more market liberal and less sympathetic to economic regulation than those who have less formal education. This is true both in countries with high support for markets as well as those with high distrust of markets and strong support for government regulation. The correlations are consistent for a wide range of questions regarding differing attitudes towards a variety of regulatory policies. More important, we find very little evidence that the content of education seems to have a big impact on this effect. Most notably, when considering data from Russia, we observe that whether we confine ourselves to older people who were entirely educated in the Soviet period or compare the results to a sample from the post-Soviet era, we consistently find that those with more education are more likely to be favorable towards markets and relatively less supportive of market regulation. This is remarkable as Russia is among the least market liberal of countries in the sample.