Reconsidering the Measure of Educational Attainment: A Panel Study of Undergraduates' Political Knowledge and Attitudes
The proportion of people with higher education degrees has substantially increased in the last few decades due to the rapid expansion of higher education in Taiwan. It is common in survey research to measure individuals' educational attainment in terms of the "level" of education they have attained, which ignores the possible heterogeneity among those who share the same level of educational attainment. Two factors are adopted to divide subgroups among undergraduate students: the first factor is whether the undergraduates surveyed are attending a public school or a private one; the second factor is whether the higher education institution the respondent is attending is a university or a vocational college. This paper thus aims to examine the political knowledge and attitudes possessed by a cohort of undergraduate students from a horizontal perspective to see whether there exists substantial deviation among the subgroups (public/private and university/vocational college). The analysis of panel data indicates that first-year undergraduate students from different types of schools indeed possess unequal levels of political knowledge and attitudes. The gap not only remains significant during the period of attaining higher education, but becomes wider when it is assessed shortly before graduation. It is therefore recommended that survey research should revise the measurement of educational attainment as a response to the expansion of higher education. For respondents holding higher education degrees, we recommend adding questions in surveys to collect data on the type of university or college the respondents graduated from to gather more complete data, and this information should be useful for future studies on similar topics.