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Higher education and self-governance: the effects of higher education and field of study on voice and agency in Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. Centre for Applied Psychological Research, School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy at University of South Australia, Australia.
2012 (English)In: International Journal of Lifelong Education, ISSN 0260-1370, E-ISSN 1464-519X, Vol. 31, no 6, 817-834 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

There is extensive research pointing to the positive effects of education in the form of labour market outcomes. These outcomes are vital when evaluating education; there are however additional outcomes of education that might also be important for quality of life. From this point of view, education could affect non-market areas such as democracy, gender equality and civic engagement. This article investigates the effects of level of education and field of study on two vital non-market capabilities: agency and voice. The study uses an eight-year longitudinal national survey of 1058 Swedish youth, controlling for baseline values of voice and agency. The empirical analysis shows that university education increases young people’s capabilities of voice and agency. Field of study was also found to have a relationship with agency, where social science and business education was found to be connected with the highest probability of agency, whereas there were only small effects of field of education on voice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2012. Vol. 31, no 6, 817-834 p.
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60475DOI: 10.1080/02601370.2012.733891OAI: diva2:560700
Available from: 2012-10-15 Created: 2012-10-15 Last updated: 2014-05-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Non-market outcomes of education: the long-term impact of education on individuals' social participation and health in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Non-market outcomes of education: the long-term impact of education on individuals' social participation and health in Sweden
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In research, it is typical to analyse and discuss the utility of education in economic terms—specifically the market value of a particular degree or the financial returns associated with additional years in higher education. However, education may also generate outcomes that belong to the non-market sphere, such as open-mindedness, societal cohesion, community involvement, better health, and gender equality; yet these outcomes have received little scholarly attention. The main objective of this thesis, therefore, is to investigate the relationship between education and four non-market outcomes: agency, voice, health behaviour and psychological distress. By utilizing two longitudinal data sets, the Swedish Survey of Living Conditions and the Northern Swedish Cohort, it is possible to assess the long-term effects of education on each of these four non-market outcomes.

Results clearly demonstrate that education has a critical impact on each of the outcomes of interest. Having a higher education—and in particular a university degree–enhances individuals’ agency and voice, reduces psychological distress, and improves individuals’ health behaviour. Further, results show that different academic subjects generate field-specific resources. In contrast to a market perspective, where the value of the specific field of study is assessed only in economic terms, results indicate that fields that are commonly viewed as having low market value may actually yield non-economic rewards that benefit individuals in critically important ways.

Analyses also show that individual and social factors shape the extent to which education leads to positive outcomes. In terms of agency and voice, results indicate that education can compensate for social differences. Among those with a working class background, earning a university degree contributes to increasing levels of agency and voice, while no significant effects of education exist for those with a white-collar background. Results also demonstrate that the impact of education on psychological well-being differs for men and women. For men, labour market resources (i.e., being employed) was important for reducing psychological distress, while for women social resources (i.e., having a partner) was more important.

Due to its use of high quality, longitudinal data, this thesis makes a significant contribution to the scholarly literature and to what we know about the impact of education attainment. A limitation of cross-sectional analyses is that it is difficult to separate causal effects from selection effects. By adopting a longitudinal approach, it is possible to control for earlier (baseline) circumstances and therefore assess the causal impact of education on individual outcomes. This strategy yields robust results that make clear the long-term effects of educational attainment on individuals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2014. 38 p.
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 74
education, non-market outcomes, agency, voice, health behaviour, psychological distress, longitudinal design, capability approach, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-88369 (URN)978-91-7601-051-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-05-30, Hörsal 1031, Norra beteendevetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2014-05-09 Created: 2014-05-05 Last updated: 2014-05-09Bibliographically approved

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Brännlund, AnnicaStrandh, Mattias
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