May 2020

IZA DP No. 13210: The Causal Effect of Education on Climate Literacy and Pro-Environmental Behaviours: Evidence from a Nationwide Natural Experiment

published as 'Education and pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours: a nonparametric regression discontinuity analysis of a major schooling reform in England and Wales', Ecological Economics, 2021, 181, 106931.

There is a widespread belief that a lack of education is the primary cause of public apathy to climate change. Yet, despite the global campaign to promote education as a tool to combat global warming, empirical evidence on the causal effect of education on climate literacy and pro-environmental behaviours remains worryingly scarce. Using the raising of the minimum school leaving age law in England from 15 to 16 years of age in September 1972 as a natural experiment, I showed that remaining in school as a result of the reform causally increased the level of comprehension about the causes of climate change. However, I found little causal evidence that more education also improved the pro-environmental behaviours of those who were affected by the reform. This raises an important question of whether policies aimed at improving climate change awareness through education can effectively produce long-lasting changes in pro-environmental behaviours.