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Study: Better-educated citizens improve government by complaining more

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It doesn’t matter whether it’s a dictatorship or a democracy: better-educated citizens tend to have a better government, according to a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Suhaib Salem


Protesters gather at Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Corruption, the study finds, tends to fall in places with higher levels of education, regardless of whether the country has a free media or actively combats corruption. And researchers have pinpointed one reason why: Educated people are more likely to complain about official misconduct and report crimes, even in autocratic regimes:

As education levels in a country rise, so do complaints when officials misbehave, raising the expected costs of misconduct and thus encouraging officials to follow the rules — to ask for fewer bribes, to avoid abusing people, to show up to work. Newly assembled individual-level survey data from the World Justice Project show that, within countries, better educated people are more likely to report official misconduct...Citizen complaints might thus be an operative mechanism that explains the link between education and the quality of government.

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