Political Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 579–601 | Cite as

Estimating the Impact of Education on Political Participation: Evidence from Monozygotic Twins in the United States, Denmark and Sweden

  • Peter Thisted DinesenEmail author
  • Christopher T. Dawes
  • Magnus Johannesson
  • Robert Klemmensen
  • Patrik Magnusson
  • Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard
  • Inge Petersen
  • Sven Oskarsson
Original Paper


In this study we provide new evidence on the much-discussed effect of education on political participation by utilizing the quasi-experiment of twinning. By looking at the relationship between education and participation within monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs we are able to circumvent traditional sources of confounding of the relationship rooted in genes and early life family environment because MZ twins share both. The results of within-twin pair analyses based on surveys from the United States, Denmark and Sweden show that while the relationship between education and political participation is highly confounded by genes and/or familial environment in all three countries, a positive impact remains of years of education in the US and of high school completion in Denmark. No effect is found in Sweden. Robustness checks suggest that the observed effect is not confounded by within-twin pair differences in prenatal environment nor differential treatment during childhood, and, if anything, that it most likely constitutes a lower bound estimate.


Education Political participation Co-twin control design Monozygotic twins 



The authors would like to thank the VELUX foundation as well as the Faculty of Social Science, University of Southern Denmark (for an FIK grant) for financial support. Moreover, we would like to thank Cindy Kam, as well as participants at the workshop on Political Psychology at the University of Southern Denmark in 2013, and participants at the Political Behavior workshop at University of Copenhagen in 2013, for helpful feedback. Finally, we would like to thank Kim Mannemar Sønderskov and Bolette Danckert for advice on the statistical analyses. Any remaining errors are, of course, our own.

Supplementary material

11109_2015_9328_MOESM1_ESM.docx (96 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 97 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Thisted Dinesen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher T. Dawes
    • 2
  • Magnus Johannesson
    • 3
  • Robert Klemmensen
    • 4
  • Patrik Magnusson
    • 5
  • Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard
    • 4
  • Inge Petersen
    • 6
  • Sven Oskarsson
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark
  2. 2.Wilf Family Department of PoliticsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Stockholm School of EconomicsStockholmSweden
  4. 4.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark
  5. 5.Karolinska InstituteStockholmSweden
  6. 6.The Danish Twin Registry, Department of Public HealthUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark
  7. 7.Department of GovernmentUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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