Classified out of society? How educational classification induces political alienation through feelings of misrecognition.

Jochem van Noord, Bram Spruyt, Toon Kuppens, Russell Spears

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Less educated citizens are both descriptively and substantively outnumbered by higher educated citizens in political and societal institutions. While social science has devoted much time to explain why such education effects exist, it has largely neglected the role of feelings of misrecognition in inducing political alienation among less educated citizens. We argue that education has become so central in processes of economic and social stratification that it is likely that less educated citizens feel misrecognized due to their marginal presence in societal and political institutions, which would then lead to their political alienation. This would in particular be the case in societies that are more ‘schooled’, that is, societies where schooling is a more dominant and steering institution. We analysed data from 49,261 individuals in 34 European countries and found that feelings of misrecognition were strongly related to political distrust, dissatisfaction with democracy, and vote abstention. These relations explained a significant part of the difference between higher and less educated citizens in political alienation. We also found that this mediation effect was larger in countries that are more schooled.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe British Journal of Sociology
Early online date2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. The British Journal of Sociology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of London School of Economics and Political Science.

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • education
  • misrecognition
  • political alienation
  • political trust
  • satisfaction with democracy


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