Amphithéâtre Guillaume Budé, Site Marcelin Berthelot
En libre accès, dans la limite des places disponibles


In a famous statement, Alexis de Tocqueville once highlighted the love for equality as a defining characteristic of democratic nations. Yet, despite this observation, inequality of political opportunity remains widespread in most developed democracies. Individuals born into economically or politically marginalized families are considerably less likely to grow up to become politically active citizens than their more fortunate peers. Over the years, many suggestions have been made on how to break this chain of political inequality. This lecture will focus on one widely proposed solution: improved educational opportunities.

The view of education as the 'great equalizer' of political influence has a long history in liberal democratic thought. However, in recent decades, this belief in the redeeming effects of education has been questioned by scholars who argue that the strong correlation between education and political participation observed in most democracies is spurious rather than causal.

In this lecture, we will revisit this scholarly debate using individual-level data from three large-scale educational reforms that took place in Sweden during the 20th century. By doing so, we find that carefully designed educational reforms can provide an effective means to reduce the political opportunity gaps that are currently threatening democratic legitimacy in many countries.