Make your own free website on Tripod.com
**************************************************************************************

This article was written in 1990 for the academic journals but was not accepted for publication. For a later article on the topic, see here

EDUCATION, CONSERVATISM AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: COMPARING QUEENSLAND AND NEW SOUTH WALES



J.J. Ray

University of N.S.W., Australia

Abstract

For 32 years the State of Queensland was ruled by markedly conservative governments. For most of this time the rate of job-creation in Queensland was roughly twice the Australian average. This seems to be traceable to the vigorously pro-business policies pursued by the Queensland government in general and by Sir Johannes Bjelke-Peterson in particular. It is asked whether the long period of support for conservative government in Queensland stems from Queenslanders being generally more conservative than other Australians. Survey evidence is presented which shows that Queenslanders are more conservative on conservatism scales than are New South Wales residents. It is also shown that this difference is fully explainable as the outcome of lesser education at the higher levels among Queenslanders. The seeming paradox is addressed that greater economic development went with lesser education rather than with more education.


INTRODUCTION

The Australian State of Queensland between 1957 and 1989 was continuously ruled by markedly conservative political parties. From 1968 to 1987 the Premier of the State was the redoubtable Johannes Bjelke-Petersen (later Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen but always popularly known as "Joh"). For nearly 20 years "Joh", in effect, "ran" Queensland. He devoted his many years in office to doing everything he could to encourage business, enterprise and employment. He does seem to have succeeded in his aim. Employment growth in Queensland does appear to have been high during his term in office.

How high? Determining this is not quite as easy as it once might have been. Perhaps for political reasons, official Australian yearbooks (e.g. Castles, 1988) have abandoned their long-standing practice of breaking up the Australian workforce on a State-by-State basis. The most recent information of this kind would therefore appear to be the estimates in Cameron (1985). These are, however, ample for the purpose. If we compare the number of wage and salary earners in Cameron (1985) with the numbers obtained from the 1966 census (Archer, 1968) we find that employment of wage and salary earners in Queensland has increased over the period by 42% versus 26% overall in Australia. If we subtracted the Queensland component from the national average, the difference would, of course, be even more striking. Queensland has had roughly twice the rate of job-creation as the rest of Australia. Because there is a high rate of immigration into Queensland from other States, however, the rate of job-creation has not always been sufficient to take up all the newcomers. Queensland's unemployment rate has therefore tended to hover around the national average. The Queensland economy has, in other words, been to some extent the victim of its own success. Mexican immigration into the United States might offer some parallel. People who move into Queensland from other Australian States are in fact referred to by some Queenslanders as "Mexicans". The Queensland success at job-creation, however, is obviously very large and it becomes of interest to see how "Joh" and his policies enjoyed such long-term acceptance in Queensland.

The conventional wisdom in Australia about the electoral success of Sir Joh and his National Party has it that Queenslanders are innately more conservative (Holmes & Sharman, 1977 p. 49; Mullins, 1980) and exploration of this proposal seems warranted. It becomes a matter of some interest to know whether it is true or not that Queenslanders are generally more conservative than other Australians and if so why.

METHOD and RESULTS

Fortunately, this particular psychological speculation is one that is reasonably amenable to empirical investigation. There are well-recognized methods among psychologists for addressing such questions. Have psychologists, then, addressed the question? Unfortunately, Queensland is a rather small community by world standards (total population around 2 million) so systematic surveys of the question have been rare. The usual public opinion poll data is available but such data are generally objected to on a number of grounds by psychometricians. The chief such objection centers on the problem of generalization. A man may be more conservative on one particular issue but does that mean he will be more conservative in general? Most public opinion polls provide no answer to such questions. Studies with "scales" (carefully pre-tested aggregates of questions) are needed to provide such answers.

There appear to be only two studies in the literature which apply such scales of conservatism to random samples of Queenslanders and other Australians. Both are by the present author. See Ray (1982) and Ray & Furnham (1984). Unfortunately for the present purposes, however, they come to contradictory conclusions. Ray (1982) concludes that Queenslanders are more conservative than other Australians while Ray & Furnham (1984) conclude that they are not. Where, then, does the truth lie?

Perhaps the first reason for the conflict in findings that springs to mind is that conservatism was measured as a multidimensional variable on the first occasion but as a unidimensional variable on the second occasion. By reprocessing the 1982 data it may be seen that this explanation is considerably weaker than it might at first appear. Ray (1984) shows that the same data used in 1982 to provide a three-dimensional picture of the conservatism domain can also be quite well used to produce a single, unidimensional conservatism scale. If scores on this scale are tabulated for the Queensland and New South Wales (New South Wales is Australia's most populous State) respondents of the 1982 study, the 1982 results remain unchanged: The Queensland respondents are still more conservative. See Table 1 of the Appendix.

A second explanation may therefore be considered. The two comparisons of Brisbane and Sydney responses did not use the same scale items and different items produce different responses. Queenslanders may be more conservative on some issues (i.e. those studied in the 1982 comparison) but not on others (i.e. those studied in the 1984 comparison). There is some substance in this view. The 1982 results showed Queenslanders as being above the midpoint on conservatism with New South Wales residents below the midpoint whereas the 1984 survey showed both the Sydney and Brisbane (the respective capital cities of New South Wales and Queensland) to be above the midpoint on conservatism -- i.e. in 1984 both Sydney and Brisbane residents were shown as tending more towards conservatism than radicalism. Although the contents of the 20 item scale derived from the 1982 responses and the contents of the 14 item scale used in the 1984 work were superficially similar, it appears that the 14 item scale expressed conservative sentiments in a more plausible way.

The upshot of this argument, however, is that we are asked to believe that expressing conservatism in a particularly plausible way caused Queenslanders to accept conservatism marginally less than did New South Wales respondents. (Queenslanders being .36 of an S.D. above the midpoint while New South Wales residents were .45 of an S.D. above the midpoint). This is not an impossible conclusion but it seems sufficiently dubious to warrant a search for yet other explanations of the scores observed on the two occasions.

Such an explanation was suggested in Ray (1982). It was noted that in both States, conservatism went with lesser education and that Queenslanders undertake less education at the higher levels than do New South Wales residents. It was suggested that the interstate educational differences accounted for the interstate differences in conservatism.

Official statistics do confirm that Queenslanders undertake less education (Petersen, 1983). The t for the difference in education between the two Ray & Furnham samples is, however, a non-significant .96 (using the p <.05 criterion). This means that the samples concerned do not conform to the demography of the population as a whole.

How it differs is obviously the next question. Some answer to this can be obtained by looking at the education means for the seven Sydney samples (See Table 3). Among these, the Sydney mean of Ray & Furnham (1984) is unaccountably low. The education mean shown in the three Brisbane samples (See Table 2) is, however, quite uniform. Unlike the 1982 results, the results in Ray & Furnham (1984) failed to show the normal interstate differences in education (New South Wales residents being more highly educated).

Now that the locus of the problem is revealed, the explanation is fairly simple. The volunteer artifact that plagues all social surveys (Ray, 1985) affected the present results also. No matter how randomly a sample is drawn, the final sample obtained will diverge from randomness due to refusals (covert or overt) by some of those drawn to participate. People are not marbles in a barrel. The best that we can do about this is generally simply to check that our final demographic breakdown is representative and that the volunteer artifact affects our different samples roughly equally. In the case of the Sydney sample only of Ray & Furnham (1984) the small methodological innovation was made of using only one experienced interviewer rather than a team of interviewers. While his results were otherwise satisfactory, it does appear that he had relatively better success at obtaining interviews with less educated people. This produced a bias in the sample he interviewed that made his sample more like a Brisbane sample.

DISCUSSION

When we focus on educational levels it may be seen that the Ray & Furnham (1984) study in fact reinforces the conclusions of the 1982 study: Both samples lead to the view that Queenslanders are more conservative only insofar as they are less educated. That the two different studies used different sampling methodologies (postal versus door-to-door) and different scales strengthens the conclusion even further.

It may be protested that studies of Brisbane and Sydney do not enable us to generalize to Queensland and New South Wales. In theory this is true. The Ray (1982) study, however, did form part of a larger study of the whole of Queensland and New South Wales. For reasons of simplicity (i.e. confounding State differences with urban-rural differences -- Queensland being more rural) only the capital-city results were given in Ray (1982). Ray (1983) however showed that the State-wide results gave the same conclusion as the capital-city results.

The Ray & Furnham (1984) results have then been valuable in confirming that Queensland and New South residents of similar educational levels do not on average differ in degree of conservatism. As was mentioned above, the t for the difference between the education means in the two Ray & Furnham (1984) samples was non-significant at the <.05 level. The two studies could then be seen as constituting a natural experiment. When education is controlled at the same level for Queenslanders and New South Wales residents, the two groups do not differ on conservatism. When education is allowed to stay at representative levels, however, differences in conservatism emerge.

This leads us to the inference that the lesser education of Queenslanders has, because it has made them more accepting of conservative rule, had the effect of benefitting Australians generally (through the large number of jobs created in Queensland under 30 years of conservative rule). This is, however, a rather unusual conclusion. Education is normally seen as a prime form of human capital and the association between economic success and the employment of large amounts of capital cannot in general be denied. The resolution of this contradiction, however, is not quite as difficult as it seems. We have to distinguish between the amount of education chosen and the amount of education available. Broadly, the amount of education available to the average Queenslander is similar to what is available in other States. It is true that, because of past lack of demand and the lethargic rate of change in bureaucratic organizations, the number of places offered per head in Queensland tertiary institutions has been lower than the Australian average but this seems simply to be a reflection of supply following demand. Even if this were not the case, Australian tertiary education is overwhelmingly Federally funded so there would in the past have been little difficulty in Queenslanders enrolling in the many tertiary institutions of neighbouring New South Wales -- had Queenslanders wished to do so. It seems fairly certain, then, that the lesser frequency of higher educational attainment in Queensland is not so much a reflection of lack of opportunity as a reflection of what Queenslanders have over time chosen as best reflecting their needs and requirements. Berg (1973) showed that tertiary education contributes little or nothing to business success and the folk-wisdom in Queensland on the matter has also had such elements of skepticism.

The Queensland experience suggests, then, that the optimal amount of education for any economy may be rather less than would generally be assumed. Higher education may, of course, have all kinds of non-economic benefits but as far as economic dynamism is concerned, the medium levels of education characteristically chosen in Queensland appear to have led to greater acceptance of economically beneficial governmental policies without at the same time impeding individual economic competence. Now that market-oriented and pro-business economic policies seem to have won very widespread acceptance even among former Leftist parties worldwide, however, what was true of the past may not be true of the future.

Since the broad picture in the non-Communist world is that countries with high average levels of education (e.g. the United States and Japan) have great economic success, the present findings may provide a worthwhile note of caution. The present work may be the first macroeconomic confirmation of Berg's (1973) microeconomic finding that the relationship between education (even highly applied education) and economic productivity is non-linear. As with most other inputs, the return to education may be a diminishing one and, as was shown here, too much input can at some point reduce rather than increase economic dynamism.

This does not, of course, constitute an argument for reducing generally the amount of higher education available in any particular community. It does however mean that arguments for more education in terms of its economic benefit to the community may have to be treated more skeptically than might once have been the case.

In conclusion it may be of some interest to speculate why it is that more higher education tends to reduce conservatism. More precisely, why does higher education of the sort conventional in the contemporary Western world tend to reduce conservatism? A lot may depend on what is taught. Perhaps it is only those courses with a strong humanities or social science content that provide the effect. Such courses would of course generally stress non-material and humanistic values. They may tend to idealize mankind more than everyday experience in the "real" world would normally indicate. If so, this would seem to be a sufficient cause of the effect observed.

REFERENCES

Archer, K.M. (1968) Official yearbook of the Commonwealth of Australia Canberra: Comm. Bureau of Census & Statistics.

Berg, I. (1973) Education and jobs: The great training robbery Harmondsworth, Mddx.: Penguin.

Cameron, R.J. (1985) Year book Australia Canberra: A.B.S.

Castles, I. (1988) Year Book Australia 1988 Canberra: A.B.S.

Holmes, J. & Sharman, C. (1977) The Australian Federal system Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Mullins, P. (1980) Australian urbanization and Queensland's underdevelopment: A first empirical statement. International J. Urban & Regional Res. 4, 212-238.

Petersen, D. (1983) The national cult of ignorance. Courier Mail 18th November, p. 5.

Ray, J.J. (1980) Authoritarianism and hostility. Journal of Social Psychology, 112, 307-308.

Ray, J.J. (1981a) Measuring achievement motivation by immediate emotional reactions. J. Social Psychology, 113, 85-93.

Ray, J.J. (1981b) The new Australian nationalism. Quadrant, 25(1-2), 60-62.

Ray, J.J. (1982a) Climate and conservatism in Australia. Journal of Social Psychology, 117, 297-298.

Ray, J.J. (1982b) Prison sentences and public opinion. Australian Quarterly 54, 435-443.

Ray, J.J. (1985) Authoritarianism of the Left revisited. Personality & Individual Differences 6, 271-272.

Ray, J.J. (1985) Random sampling might not be impossible after all. Political Psychology 6, 141-146.

Ray, J.J. & Furnham, A. (1984) Authoritarianism, conservatism and racism. Ethnic & Racial Studies 7, 406-412.


APPENDIX -- Tabular presentation of results.

TABLE 1

General Conservatism scale scores (See Ray, 1984a) on two Australian general population samples. (1)
Origin.........................Mean...........S.D..........N........Alpha........S.D.s to midpoint
Brisbane (Qld)............83.05.........18.47.......104........ .81...........+.16
Sydney (N.S.W).........72.27.........22.85.........98....... .90.............-.33
Other Queensland.......85.00.........21.12.......115....... .87.............+.23
Other N.S.W..............74.07.........22.89.........60....... .89.............-.25

(1) Each subdivided into metropolitan and non-metropolitan residents on the basis of present abode.


TABLE 2

Means and S.D.s for demographic variables of three Brisbane random samples.

Age................. 43.78(17.46)........... 39.66(14,61).............. 40.93(18.08)
Sex................... 1.51( .50)................ 1.45( .50).................. 1.53( .52)
Occupation....... 1.63( .50)................ 1.57( .50).................. 1.62( .49)
Education......... 2.37( .98)................ 2.32( 1.00)................ 2.34( 1.07)
N.................. 104..........................209............................102

Ref:...............(Ray, 1982a).......Ray & Najman (1985).....Ray & Furnham (1984)

Method.............. Postal................... Doorstep...................... Doorstep

N. B.: Age is given in years; Education is scored: 1=Primary, 2=Part secondary; 3=Full Secondary; 4=Tertiary; Occupation is scored: 1=Manual, 2--Non-manual; Sex is scored; 1=male; 2=female.


TABLE 3

Demographic variables (means and S.D,) for seven samples gathered randomly in the Sydney metropolitan area of New South Wales. All except the 7th listed were doorstep samples. The 7th was a postal sample.

Age........ 36.84(14.23)........ 37.04(14.25)........ 37.25(16.14)....... 35.19(16.42)
Sex.......... 1.53( .50)............. 1.44( .51)............ 1.52( .50)............ 1.46( .50)
Occup...... 1.62( .48)............. 1.69( .46)............ 1.65( .47)........... 1.71( .47)
Educ........ 2.66( .85)............. 2.78( .91)............ 2.76( .91)........... 2.60( .96)
N..........113........................145.....................207......................102
Ref:.......Ray(1982b)...........Ray(1981a)............Ray(1980)..........Ray(1981b)


Age.........38.76(17.04)..........40.08(18.36)........ 40.97(16.24)
Sex...........1.64( .48)...............1.42( .51)............ 1.53( .56)
Occup.......1.66( .47)...............1.66( .47).............1.67( .49)
Educ.........2.62( .93).............. 2.49( 1.13).......... 2.89( .99)
N............99........................100........................98
Ref:........Ray(1985a)...........Ray&Furn. (1984)... Ray(1982a)





Go to Index page for this site

Go to John Ray's "Tongue Tied" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Dissecting Leftism" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Australian Politics" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Gun Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Education Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Socialized Medicine" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Political Correctness Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Greenie Watch" blog (Backup here or here)
Go to John Ray's "Food & Health Skeptic" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Leftists as Elitists" blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Marx & Engels in their own words" blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "A scripture blog" (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here)
Go to John Ray's recipe blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here or here)

Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of recent writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page (Backup here)
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs (Backup here)
Go to Another picture page (Best with broadband)