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Inequality of Opportunity in Tertiary Education: Evidence from Europe

Flaviana Palmisano (), Federico Biagi and Vito Peragine
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Flaviana Palmisano: Sapienza University of Rome
Federico Biagi: JRC European Commission
Vito Peragine: University of Bari

Research in Higher Education, 2022, vol. 63, issue 3, No 6, 514-565

Abstract: Abstract This study provides comparable lower-bound estimates of inequality of opportunity for tertiary education (EIOp) for 31 countries in Europe, by using the two EU-SILC waves for which information on family background is available (2005 and 2011). The results reveal an important degree of heterogeneity, with Northern European countries showing low levels of inequality of opportunity and Mediterranean and Eastern European countries characterized by significant degrees of unfair educational inequalities. Parental education and occupation are the most relevant circumstances in the great majority of the countries considered. This study also exploits the two point-in-time observations available and analyses the relationship between some country-specific characteristics and inequality of opportunity in tertiary education. The analysis documents a negative association between EIOp and real GDP per capita, possibly indicating that higher equality of opportunity in tertiary education and economic growth are complementary objectives. Two results emerge as especially robust: in all the specifications we find a positive association between EIOp and the students/teacher ratio, and a negative one between EIOp and public spending in tertiary education. While we do not claim that such correlations should be interpreted causally, we think that they might indicate a meaningful underlying relationship between equality of opportunity in tertiary education and the availability of financial and non-financial resources.

Keywords: Inequality of opportunity; Higher education; Europe; Social inequality (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C14 D63 I2 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1007/s11162-021-09658-4

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