We thank Alan Gerber for guidance throughout this project. We also thank Charles Achilles, Jayne Boyd-Zaharias, and Jeff Lewis for help with the Project STAR analysis, Lawrence Schweinhart and the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation for sharing their Perry data, Annette Taylor, Lori Canova, and the “I Have a Dream” Foundation for help and support, and the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies for funding. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of the United States Military Academy, the Department of the Army, and/or the Department of Defense.
Using Experiments to Estimate the Effects of Education on Voter Turnout
Article first published online: 28 DEC 2009
©2010, Midwest Political Science Association
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 54, Issue 1, pages 174–189, January 2010
How to Cite
Sondheimer, R. M. and Green, D. P. (2010), Using Experiments to Estimate the Effects of Education on Voter Turnout. American Journal of Political Science, 54: 174–189. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2009.00425.x
- Issue published online: 28 DEC 2009
- Article first published online: 28 DEC 2009
The powerful relationship between education and voter turnout is arguably the most well-documented and robust finding in American survey research. Yet the causal interpretation of this relationship remains controversial, with many authors suggesting that the apparent link between education and turnout is spurious. In contrast to previous work, which has relied on observational data to assess the effect of education on voter turnout, this article analyzes two randomized experiments and one quasi-experiment in which educational attainment was altered exogenously. We track the children in these experiments over the long term, examining their voting rates as adults. In all three studies, we find that exogenously induced changes in high school graduation rates have powerful effects on voter turnout rates. These results imply that the correlation between education and turnout is indeed causal. We discuss some of the pathways by which education may transmit its influence.