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Economic Theory and Practical Lessons for Measuring Equality of Opportunities

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  • Miles Corak

    (University of Ottawa)

Abstract

The development of a dashboard of statistics for the monitoring of equality of opportunity should recognize important lessons from economic theory: first, descriptive statistics associated with intergenerational mobility do not speak directly to equality of opportunity without accepting a value judgment that children should not be held responsible for circumstances beyond their control; and, second, the process of child development encourages a focus on different skills and competencies, as well as different stages in a child’s life. On the basis of these lessons, the paper offers three practical recommendations for the development of policy relevant indicators. First, use data appropriate for the country at hand to estimate summary measures of inter-generational mobility, including the intergenerational elasticity of earnings between parents and children, and associated transition matrices. Second, develop measures of absolute mobility, and in particular develop a poverty line based upon the minimal level of resources needed to reasonably lower the risk of intergenerational transmission of low status, and that could complement more traditional poverty lines. Finally, make full use of the information on 15 year-olds from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and expand its scope to include younger children by developing a PISA type instrument for four to five year old children across the OECD countries. L’élaboration d’un tableau de bord des statistiques pour le suivi de l’égalité des chances doit tenir compte des enseignements utiles que nous livre la théorie économique : premièrement, des statistiques descriptives associées à des données sur la mobilité intergénérationnelle ne sauraient rendre compte directement de l’égalité des chances, à moins de souscrire au jugement de valeur selon lequel les enfants ne doivent pas être tenus pour responsables de circonstances qu’ils ne contrôlent pas ; deuxièmement, le processus de développement de l’enfant est propice à l’adoption d’une approche axée sur différentes compétences et connaissances, ainsi que sur différentes étapes de la vie de l’enfant. Le présent document fait fond sur ces enseignements et formule trois recommandations concrètes relatives à l’élaboration d’indicateurs utiles pour l’action publique. Premièrement, des données adaptées à chaque pays devraient être utilisées pour estimer des indicateurs synthétiques, notamment l’élasticité intergénérationnelle des revenus entre parents et enfants, et les matrices de transition qui lui sont associées. Deuxièmement, il convient d’élaborer des mesures de la mobilité absolue, et en particulier de définir un seuil de pauvreté sur la base du niveau minimum de ressources nécessaires pour faire raisonnablement baisser le risque de transmission intergénérationnelle du statut défavorisé, et qui pourrait être utilisé en complément de seuils de pauvreté plus conventionnels. Enfin, il serait judicieux d’exploiter pleinement les informations sur les élèves de 15 ans tirées du Programme international pour le suivi des acquis des élèves (PISA), et d’en étendre le champ d’application afin d’y inclure des enfants plus jeunes, en élaborant un instrument de type PISA permettant de prendre en compte les enfants de quatre à cinq ans de l’ensemble des pays de l’OCDE.

Suggested Citation

  • Miles Corak, 2016. "Economic Theory and Practical Lessons for Measuring Equality of Opportunities," OECD Statistics Working Papers 2016/2, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:stdaaa:2016/2-en
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jm3npvrl832-en
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