Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Many African countries are both consolidating their democratic institutions and continuing to expand mass primary schooling. In this context, citizens may be interested in the broad general effect of education on political engagement. Recent social science work estimating this effect has not arrived at consensus, with researchers suggesting the relationship may be context dependent, and could vary from positive to negative. We apply an instrumental variable (IV) approach, using Afrobarometer surveys in Burkina Faso over the 2008-2019 period, merged with data on the timing of school establishment at the village level. Individual schooling attainment is instrumented by whether a school was established in the village of residence when the person was seven years old. The data is finer than recent papers that estimate the relationship using national-level quasi-experiments where education access changed across birth cohorts or where an indirect proxy measure of education access varied across regions and birth cohorts. We find that the relationship appears to differ by gender: men exhibit a substantial negative effect of education on engagement, while women exhibit no sizable relationship. The null effect for women may be due to low power, as there is less variation in education outcomes for women in rural areas. The results suggest that gender may be an important mediator of the direction and magnitude of the complex relationship between education and political engagement in polities with low overall levels of schooling.


This is a working paper.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.