Societal Education and the Education Divide in European Identity, 1992-2015 Articles uri icon

publication date

  • September 2018

start page

  • 612

end page

  • 628


  • 6


  • 34

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0266-7215

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1468-2672


  • The fact that highly educated individuals are significantly more likely to self-identify as Europeans than those with lower levels of educational attainment is one of the most robust findings in the scholarship on individual Europeanization. Previous work also shows that this cleavage in supranational identification varies cross-nationally and over time. We contribute to the existing literature by examining the country-level, socio-structural conditions that influence the education cleavage. Focusing on how the educational environment influences identity formation, we test two divergent predictions of how societal education—i.e. the average national level of educational attainment—shapes the cleavage between individuals of differing education levels with respect to their self-identification as European. According to Welzel"s (2013) ‘cross-fertilization approach", societal education should widen the education divide. By contrast, our alternative ‘cross-attenuating approach" posits that societal education should instead help to close it. Using a cross-national time-series dataset that includes 28 EU member states and 28 Eurobarometers covering 1992–2015, as well as between–within multilevel models, we find a significantly narrower education cleavage in countries where societal education increased the most during the period of our study. This result provides strong support for the cross-attenuating approach presented here. We theorize that societal education helps to narrow the individual-level education cleavage through a discursive and a network mechanism.


  • Economics
  • Education
  • Sociology