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What Does it Take to Achieve Equality of Opportunity in Education ? An Empirical Investigation Based on Brazilian Data



    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Department of Economics)


    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Department of Economics)


Roemer s’ 1998 seminal work on equality of opportunity has contributed to the emergence of a theory of justice that is modern, conceptually clear and easy to mobilize in policy design. In this paper, we apply Roemer’s theory to education policy. We first analyze the reallocations of educational expenditure required to equalize opportunities (taken to be test scores close to the end of compulsory education). Using Brazilian data, we find that implementing an equal-opportunity policy across pupils of different socio-economic background, by using per-pupil spending as the instrucment, and ensuring that nobody receives less that 1/3 of the current national average, requires multiplying by 8.6 the current level of spending on the lowest achieving pupils. This result is driven by the extremely low elasticity of scores to per-pupil spending. As such, it implies large reallocations that are probably politically unacceptable. By exploiting our knowledge of the education production function, we then identify ways of reducing financial reallocations needed to achieve equality of opportunity. We show that the simultaneous redistribution of monetary and non-moneary inputs, like peer group quality (i.e. desegregation) and school effectiveness (i.e. equalizing access to the best-run schools), considerably reduces - by almost 50% - the magnitude of financial redistribution needed. Implementing an EOp policy would not come at any particular cost (or benefit) in terms of efficiency

Suggested Citation

  • F.D., Waltenberg & V. , Vandenberghe, 2005. "What Does it Take to Achieve Equality of Opportunity in Education ? An Empirical Investigation Based on Brazilian Data," Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) 2005055, Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques.
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvec:2005055

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Rajius Idzalika & Maria C. Lo Bue, 2016. "Opportunities in education: are factors outside individual responsibility really persistent? Evidence from Indonesia, 1997-2007," Working Papers 397, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    2. Fábio D. Waltenberg, 2010. "Essential educational achievements as the currency of educational justice," REVISTA CUADERNOS DE ECONOMÍA, UN - RCE - CID, June.
    3. Cavalcanti, Tiago & Guimaraes, Juliana & Sampaio, Breno, 2010. "Barriers to skill acquisition in Brazil: Public and private school students performance in a public university entrance exam," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 395-407, November.
    4. Brunori, Paolo & Peragine, Vito & Serlenga, Laura, 2012. "Fairness in education: The Italian university before and after the reform," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 764-777.
    5. Tao, Hung-Lin, 2010. "Equal educational spending across districts--A case study of Taiwan," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 980-992, December.
    6. Magali Jaoul-Grammare & Brice Magdalou, 2013. "Opportunities in Higher Education: An Application to France," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 111-112, pages 295-325.
    7. Andrew Jones & John Roemer & Pedro Rosa Dias, 2014. "Equalising opportunities in health through educational policy," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 43(3), pages 521-545, October.
    8. Luis Fernando Gamboa & Fábio D. Waltenberg, 2011. "Inequality of opportunity in educational achievement in Latin America: Evidence from PISA 2006-2009," Working Papers 206, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    9. Mongan, Juan Carlos & Santin, Daniel & Valiño, Aurelia, 2011. "Towards the equality of educational opportunity in the province of Buenos Aires," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 583-596, July.
    10. Liyanage Devangi H. Perera, & Eduard J. Bomhoff & Grace H.Y. Lee, 2014. "Parents' attitudes towards science and their children's science achievement," Monash Economics Working Papers 02-14, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    11. Gamboa, Luis Fernando & Waltenberg, Fábio D., 2012. "Inequality of opportunity for educational achievement in Latin America: Evidence from PISA 2006–2009," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 694-708.

    More about this item


    Equality of Opportunity; Education; Formula Funding;

    JEL classification:

    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education

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