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Equity in Student Achievement Across OECD Countries: An Investigation of the Role of Policies

  • Orsetta Causa
  • Catherine Chapuis

This paper focuses on inequalities in learning opportunities for individuals coming from different socioeconomic backgrounds as a measure of (in) equality of opportunity in OECD countries and looks at the role played by policies and institutions in shaping countries’ relative positions. Based on harmonised 15- year old students’ achievement data collected at the individual level, the empirical analysis shows that while Nordic European countries exhibit relatively low levels of inequality, continental Europe is characterised by high levels of inequality - in particular of schooling segregation along socio-economic lines - while Anglo-Saxon countries occupy a somewhat intermediate position. Policies allowing increasing social mix are found to reduce school socio-economic segregation without affecting overall performance. Countries that emphasise childcare and pre-school institutions exhibit lower levels of inequality of opportunity, suggesting the effectiveness of early intervention policies in reducing persistence of education outcomes across generations. There is also a positive association between inequality of opportunities and income inequality. As a consequence, cross-country regressions suggest that redistributive policies can help to reduce inequalities of educational opportunities associated with socioeconomic background and, hence, persistence of education outcomes across generations. Équité et compétences scolaires dans les pays de l'OCDE : examen du rôle des politiques publiques Cet article analyse les inégalités de compétences scolaires pour des individus d’origine sociale différente comme une mesure d’(in)égalité des chances dans les pays de l’OCDE et étudie le rôle joué par les politiques publiques dans ce contexte. Le travail empirique est basé sur l’analyse de données individuelles harmonisées entre pays mesurant les compétences scolaires d’étudiants âgés de 15 ans. Les résultats montrent que les pays d’Europe du Nord sont caractérises par des niveaux relativement faibles d’inégalités, tandis que les pays d’Europe continentale sont caractérises par des niveaux relativement élevés d’inégalités, en particulier en termes de ségrégation socio-économique a l’école; enfin, les pays anglosaxons occupent a ce titre une position intermédiaire. Les politiques favorables à la mixité sociale à l’école réduisent la ségrégation scolaire sans en affecter la performance générale. Les pays qui mettent l’accent sur les services à la petite enfance et sur les institutions préscolaires sont caractérisés par des niveaux relativement faibles d’inégalités des chances, ce qui suggère l’efficacité potentielle des interventions éducatives précoces dans la promotion de la mobilité intergénérationnelle. L’analyse empirique suggere l’existence d’une association positive entre inégalités de compétences scolaires et inégalités de revenu. Par conséquent, les régressions inter-pays suggerent que les politiques redistributives peuvent aider à réduire les inégalités de compétences scolaires associées a l’origine sociale, et, ce faisant, les phénomènes de persistance éducative entre les générations.

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 708.

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Date of creation: 07 Jul 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:708-en
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