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Changes in Educational Inequality

  • Jo Blanden
  • Paul Gregg
  • Stephen Machin


This paper looks at changes over time in the extent of educational inequality - defined as educational attainment by people from higher relative to lower income backgrounds. It draws upon household and longitudinal data sources in both the UK and US to look at this highly policy relevant question. The data shows a sharp rise in educational inequality over time in the UK, but with the stage of the education sequence mattering. In particular the rapid expansion of higher education seen in the recent past in the UK disproportionately benefited children from relatively affluent backgrounds. The international comparisons show different patterns of change in the association between education and family income over time in the UK relative to the US. We link these findings on changes in educational inequality to the literature on intergenerational mobility, arguing that international differences in educational systems matter for the extent of economic and social mobility across generations.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK in its series The Centre for Market and Public Organisation with number 03/079.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bri:cmpowp:03/079
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  1. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Machin, Stephen, 1997. "Implications of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," Working Paper Series 486, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  2. David Greenaway & Michelle Haynes, 2003. "Funding Higher Education in The UK: The Role of Fees and Loans," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages F150-F166, February.
  3. Fernando Galindo-Rueda & Anna Vignoles, 2003. "Class Ridden or Meritocratic? An Economic Analysis of Recent Changes in Britain," CEE Discussion Papers 0032, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  4. Lorraine Dearden & Steve Machin & Howard Reed, 1995. "Intergenerational mobility in Britain," IFS Working Papers W95/20, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  5. Solon, Gary, 1999. "Intergenerational mobility in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1761-1800 Elsevier.
  6. John Hobcraft, 1998. "Intergenerational and Life-Course Transmission of Social Exclusion: Influences and Childhood Poverty, Family Disruption and Contact with the Police," CASE Papers case15, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  7. Acemoglu, Daron & Pischke, J. -S., 2001. "Changes in the wage structure, family income, and children's education," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 890-904, May.
  8. Sandra E. Black & Amir Sufi, 2002. "Who Goes to College? Differential Enrollment by Race and Family Background," NBER Working Papers 9310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Stephen Machin & John Van Reenen, 1998. "Technology and changes in skill structure: evidence from seven OECD countries," IFS Working Papers W98/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  10. Susan Dynarski, 2000. "Hope for Whom? Financial Aid for the Middle Class and Its Impact on College Attendance," NBER Working Papers 7756, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Dynarski, Susan, 2000. "Hope for Whom? Financial Aid for the Middle Class and Its Impact on College Attendance," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 3), pages 629-62, September.
  12. David G. Blanchflower & Richard B. Freeman, 2000. "Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number blan00-1, July.
  13. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
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