Jag har nyligen rapporterat om vad som kan tänkas stimulera demokratisering. En ny studie, ”Democracy and Foreign Education”, publicerad i American Economic Review, undersöker om ytterligare en faktor, utbildning i utlandet, kan ha en positiv effekt:
Despite the large amount of private and public resources spent on foreign education, there is no systematic evidence that foreign-educated individuals foster democracy in their home countries. Using a unique panel dataset on foreign students starting in the 1950s, I show that foreign-educated individuals promote democracy in their home country, but only if the foreign education is acquired in democratic countries. The results are robust to several estimation techniques, to different definitions of democracy, and to the inclusion of a variety of control variables, including democracy in trading partners, neighboring countries, level of income, and level and stock of education.
Vad är det för mekanismer som kan förklara resultatet? I studien nämns fem tänkbara:
First, foreign-educated “technocrats” are such a scarce resource in many countries that they can impose their own preferences in favor of democratic regimes. Second, foreign-educated leaders seem to be extremely motivated to keep up with the more developed countries where they studied; in general, the leaders’ educational level seems to be associated with the probability of introducing structural reforms (Axel Dreher et al. 2006). Third, foreign-educated individuals make it more difficult for dictatorial regimes to maintain repression, because they foster the dissemination of new ideas at home. Fourth, foreign-educated individuals can make repressive activities more costly for a dictatorial regime, since they have easier access to external media. In addition, foreign-educated individuals may lobby foreign governments to press for change. Fifth, education abroad may inculcate a sense of common identity with the international democratic community, which has proven to be a very powerful motivating factor (see George A. Akerlof and Rachel E. Kranton 2005).
Vi får hoppas att ledarna i diktaturer inte läser denna nya studie. Den kanske annars skulle göra dem mindre pigga på att skicka sina studenter utomlands — i alla fall till demokratier.