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How do institutions affect learning inequalities? Revisiting difference-in-difference models with international assessments

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In this contribution, we discuss the difference-in-difference strategies employed in the literature to evaluate the effect of institutional features on learning inequalities exploiting international assessments administered at different age/grades. In their seminal paper, Hanushek and Woessmann (2006) analyze with two-step estimation the effect of early tracking on overall inequalities, measured by variability indexes. Later work of other scholars focuses instead on inequalities among children of different family backgrounds, using individual-level models on data pooled from different countries and assessments. We demonstrate that since test-scores are measured with different scales at different assessments, pooled individual models may deliver severely biased results. Instead, the scaling problem does not affect the two-step approach. For this reason, we advocate the use of two-step estimation also to analyze family-background achievement inequalities. Against this background, using PIRLS-2006 and PISA-2012 we conduct two-step difference-in-difference analyses, finding new evidence that early tracking fosters both overall inequalities and family background differentials in reading literacy.

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  • Contini, Dalit & Cugnata, Federica, 2018. "How do institutions affect learning inequalities? Revisiting difference-in-difference models with international assessments," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201817, University of Turin.
  • Handle: RePEc:uto:dipeco:201817
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    1. Ludger Woessmann, 2016. "The Importance of School Systems: Evidence from International Differences in Student Achievement," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 3-32, Summer.
    2. Daniele Checchi & Luca Flabbi, 2013. "Intergenerational Mobility and Schooling Decisions in Germany and Italy: The Impact of Secondary School Tracks," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 3, pages 7-57, July-Sept.
    3. Erik Hanushek & Stephen Machin & Ludger Woessmann (ed.), 2011. "Handbook of the Economics of Education," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 4, number 4, June.
    4. Eric A. Hanushek & Ludger Wössmann, 2006. "Does Educational Tracking Affect Performance and Inequality? Differences- in-Differences Evidence Across Countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages 63-76, March.
    5. Thomas Fuchs & Ludger Wößmann, 2008. "What accounts for international differences in student prformance? A re-examination using PISA data," Studies in Empirical Economics, in: Christian Dustmann & Bernd Fitzenberger & Stephen Machin (ed.), The Economics of Education and Training, pages 209-240, Springer.
    6. Hanushek, Eric A. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2015. "The Knowledge Capital of Nations: Education and the Economics of Growth," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262029170.
    7. Wößmann, Ludger, 2016. "The Importance of School Systems," Munich Reprints in Economics 43463, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    8. Ruhose, Jens & Schwerdt, Guido, 2016. "Does early educational tracking increase migrant-native achievement gaps? Differences-in-differences evidence across countries," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 134-154.
    9. Erik Hanushek & Stephen Machin & Ludger Woessmann (ed.), 2011. "Handbook of the Economics of Education," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 3, number 3, June.
    10. Bol, Thijs & Witschge, Jacqueline & Van de Werfhorst, Herman & Dronkers, Jaap, 2013. "Curricula tracking and central examinations: counterbalancing the Impact of social background on student achievement in 36 countries," MPRA Paper 44675, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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