Working paper

Dictatorship, Higher Education and Social Mobility

Mounu Prem


We study the relationship between political regimes, education, and redistribution, fo-cusing on the 1973 coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power in Chile. We show that the Pinochet dictatorship’s aims of political control and fiscal conservatism led to a sharp reduction in openings for new students in all universities in the country. Individuals who reached college age shortly after the coup experienced a large decline in college enrollment, had worse labor mar-ket outcomes throughout their lives, and struggled to climb up the socioeconomic ladder. This suggests a negative link between dictatorship and social mobility. We further show that limited educational opportunities affect political behavior, as those affected by the educational contraction increasingly voted against Pinochet in the 1988 plebiscite that triggered Chile’s return to democ-racy. Hence, policies that foster regime survival in the short run may prove detrimental over a longer time horizon if a democratic window of opportunity arises.


Chile; Pinochet, education; redistribution; democratization;

See also

Published in

IAST working paper, n. 22-141, June 2022