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Inequality of Opportunity in Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa

Caroline Krafft and Halimat Alawode

No 1056, Working Papers from Economic Research Forum

Abstract: Problems with inequality have been at the forefront of recent events in the Middle East and North Africa region. Yet by conventional measures such as wages and consumption, inequality is not particularly high. In this paper we explore an alternative dimension of inequality, specifically inequality of opportunity in higher education. We assess the determinants of attaining higher education in Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia and quantify the extent and drivers of inequality of opportunity. We find that inequality is similarly high in Egypt and Tunisia, but moderate in Jordan. In all three countries family socio-economic characteristics are the primary driver of inequality. Family characteristics affect attainment even after accounting for test scores, which are themselves influenced by socio-economic status. Particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, where higher education is free of charge, public spending on higher education is ultimately regressive. Thus, a theoretically meritocratic and equitable system perpetuates inequality.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ara and nep-edu
Date: 2016, Revised 2016
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Published by The Economic Research Forum (ERF)

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Journal Article: Inequality of opportunity in higher education in the Middle East and North Africa (2018) Downloads
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