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The Impact of Higher Education on Egalitarian Attitudes and Values: Contextual and Cultural Determinants



In the present paper, we revisit the question of the impact of higher education on students’ egalitarian attitudes and values. Research in this domain indicates that students tend to become more egalitarian and tolerant with higher education, but there are also differences depending on academic disciplines. Two main hypotheses aiming to explain why students’ egalitarian attitudes differ as a function of academic disciplines are discussed: self-selection and socialization. Previous research yielding results in support of each of these hypotheses is reviewed. After pointing to some inconsistencies in the results, we consider recent research suggesting that cultural norms, namely, individualism and collectivism, may moderate the impact of higher education on attitudes. Individual factors, such as self-selection, seem to play a more prominent role than collective factors, such as socialization, in individualist cultures (e.g. North America, Australia), where most research has been conducted. In contrast, socialization appears to have a stronger impact than individual factors in collectivist cultures (e.g. Eastern Europe, Africa).