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The Alma Mater effect: Does foreign education of political leaders influence UNGA voting?

Axel Dreher () and Shu Yu ()

Public Choice, 2020, vol. 185, issue 1, No 3, 45-64

Abstract: Abstract We study whether national leaders’ foreign education influences their voting behavior at the United Nations General Assembly. We hypothesize that “affinity”—preexisting or developed while studying abroad—makes leaders with foreign educations more likely to vote with their host country. At the same time, such leaders need to show sufficient distance from their host country and demonstrate “allegiance” to their own, which will reduce voting coincidences. To test that theory we make use of data on the educational backgrounds of 831 leaders and the voting affinities between the countries they govern and those in which they studied. Over the 1975–2011 period, we find that foreign-educated leaders are less likely to vote in line with their host countries, but more likely to vote in line with (other) G7 countries. We identify the causal effect of “allegiance” by investigating the differential effect of foreign education on voting in preelection years compared to other years. The difference-in-differences-like results show that G7-educated leaders vote less frequently in line with their host countries when facing an election. Overall, both “allegiance” and “affinity” affect foreign policy.

Keywords: United Nations General Assembly voting; Foreign education; Leaders (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F51 F53 D78 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s11127-019-00739-8

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