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Stratified or Comprehensive? The Economic Efficiency of School Design

  • Giorgio Brunello
  • Massimo Giannini

We study the efficiency of secondary school design by focusing on the degree of differentiation between vocational and general education. Using a simple model of endogenous job composition, we analyze the interaction between relative demand and relative supply of skills and characterize efficient school design when the government runs schools and cares about total net output. We show that neither a comprehensive nor a stratified system unambiguously dominates the other system in terms of efficiency for all possibile values of the underlying parameters. Since comprehensive systems generate more equal labor market outcomes, it follows that the relationship between efficiency and equity in secondary education is not necessarily a trade off. We also show that net output maximizing government policy is not always supported by majority voting. When schools are stratified, majority voting could increase the elitist nature of general schools by rising the admission standard above efficient levels. At the same time, and depending on the values of the underlying parameters, efficient stratified schools could be voted down in favor of less efficient comprehensive schools.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 453.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_453
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  1. Epple, Dennis & Newlon, Elizabeth & Romano, Richard, 2002. "Ability tracking, school competition, and the distribution of educational benefits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 1-48, January.
  2. Aghion, Philippe & Caroli, Eve & García-Peñalosa, Cecilia, 1999. "Inequality and Economic Growth: The Perspective of the New Growth Theories," Scholarly Articles 12502063, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  7. Gould, Eric D & Moav, Omer & Weinberg, Bruce A, 2001. "Precautionary Demand for Education, Inequality, and Technological Progress," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 285-315, December.
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  9. De Fraja, Gianni, 1999. "Equal Opportunities in Education: Market Equilibrium and Public Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 2090, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  12. Bartel, Ann P & Lichtenberg, Frank R, 1987. "The Comparative Advantage of Educated Workers in Implementing New Technology," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(1), pages 1-11, February.
  13. Bertocchi, Graziella & Spagat, Michael, 2004. "The evolution of modern educational systems: Technical vs. general education, distributional conflict, and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 559-582, April.
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