Scott Walker is running for president. Should it matter that he doesn't have a degree?

Study examines link between leaders, college degrees, success

Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wisconsin) lack of degree would not affect his prowess as president of the United States, according to a new study.

Two assistant professors, Noam Lupu from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Duke University's Nick Carnes, examined multiple data sets tracking politicians' educational backgrounds. Most of the analysis centered on a set with information on every global world leader who served between 1875 and 2004.  Another dealt with U.S. congressmen and senators in office from 1901 to 1996. And a Brazilian data set provided information on governmental corruption.

With these data points, Lupu and Carnes then examined how countries fared under various leaders by looking at factors such as: unemployment rates, inflation rates, frequency of major labor strikes, corruption levels, income equality, and military aggression.

They found that, "when it comes to major social outcomes that voters care about, it just doesn't seem to matter whether a country's national executive has a college diploma."

The authors argue that Walker may be more similar to "dropouts" like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Karl Rove than the typical student who does not complete college.

Walker, who enrolled at Marquette University in 1986, earned decent grades and was active in student politics. Following a loss in the student body president race, he received a job offer from the American Red Cross. He left to take the job, and though he planned to return to school his political career took off.

"In the general public, people with college degrees tend to be more skilled and tend to make more money, but political candidates aren't the general public ... it doesn't matter whether you've got a college degree. You've proven yourself in other ways," the pair writes.

While many American politicians hold degrees, they generally learned how to do their jobs by actually doing them, not by sitting in a classroom, say Lupu and Carnes.

So when deciding who to vote for in the upcoming presidential primaries, Americans should focus on candidates' ideas and records, "they shouldn't get too hung up on the college part," the authors conclude.

Walker formally announced Monday that he is running for president (Carnes/Lupu, Politico, accessed 7/10; Healy, New York Times, 7/13).

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