Higher education and the evolution of prejudice

Abstract: Background: This dissertation looks at the effect of higher education on prejudice, in particular anti-immigrant sentiment. In studies of prejudice, higher education is constantly shown to correlate to lower levels of prejudice, the so-called “liberalizing effect of education,” yet we do not fully understand to what extent education matters for these attitudes. By using longitudinal data, this dissertation looks at the effect of education on out-group attitudes from different angles. It seeks to investigate whether attaining more education results in lower levels of prejudice; whether this educational effect is universal; to what extent levels of prejudice differ among academic majors, as well as theorizing about the possible mechanisms responsible for this robust relationship.Methods: This dissertation relies on both longitudinal data and cross-sectional data and a mixture of multilevel, cross-classified, and OLS linear regression models. Data come from the Norwegian Citizen Panel (NCP) and Statistics Norway, the New Immigrant Survey Netherlands (NIS2NL), the General Social Survey (GSS), and the Chilean Longitudinal Social Survey (ELSOC).Results: The four studies give insight into how and why education matters for ethnic out-group attitudes, by emphasizing different aspects of education. The main contributions from this dissertation are the following: education has the potential to reduce prejudice, albeit in cultural terms; education has an “inoculation effect” in situations that give rise to insecurity and uncertainty; the liberalizing effect of education is manifested toward ethnic minorities but not toward the ethnic majority; the content of education matters for attitudes, that is, higher education does not have a monolithic effect on attitudes; and education yields effects that are separate and/or different from other socio-economic indicators.Conclusion: This dissertation makes empirical and theoretical contributions to the study of prejudice by finding longitudinal evidence of an inverse relationship of education and anti-immigrant sentiment over time, in both Western and non-Western contexts. In addition, it provides a foundation for future research on the possible theoretical mechanisms responsible for this relationship.