May 2024

IZA DP No. 16989: Dictatorship, Higher Education, and Social Mobility

María Angélica Bautista, Felipe González, Luis R. Martinez, Pablo Muñoz, Mounu Prem

We study the effect of political regime change on higher education and its distributional and political consequences. We focus on the 1973 coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power in Chile. The Pinochet dictatorship's aims of political control and fiscal conservatism led to a large reduction in the number of openings for new students across all universities. Individuals that reached college age shortly after the coup experienced a sharp decline in college enrollment, had worse labor market outcomes throughout the life cycle and struggled to climb up the socioeconomic ladder. This contraction of higher education disproportionately affected applicants from less affluent backgrounds and plausibly contributed to the increase in inequality observed under Pinochet. We further show that individuals exposed to reduced access to college registered to vote at higher rates for the 1988 plebiscite that triggered Chile's democratic transition and we provide suggestive evidence that they increasingly voted against Pinochet.