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The Political Economy of Domestic Labor Mobility: Specific Factors, Landowners, and Education



Political actors today seek to influence labor mobility via education just as they have for centuries. Landowners in countries with large industrial sectors attempt to suppress education levels to maintain their labor supply, as educated workers are able to move into industrial work more easily than uneducated workers. However, the relationship between large landowners and education is more complex than has been previously theorized. Using a specific-factors model, I show that large landowners in countries with little economic development actually have an incentive to increase education levels. They realize the returns of an educated workforce without fearing their mobility because competing industrial opportunities for the workers do not exist. In either case, the ability of landowners to achieve their political goals is a function of their ability to overcome the collective action problem and effectively influence the state's provision of education. Powerful landowners successfully deny education in industrialized countries and provide it in agricultural countries. An analysis of panel data covering 77 countries from 1975 to 2000 confirms the conditional nature of the relationship.