Intergenerational Educational Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa for Birth Cohorts 1974-2003: Trends and Macro-Level Explanations

Ilze Plavgo , University of Mannheim
Fabrizio Bernardi, European University Institute

While cross-country comparison on trends in intergenerational educational inequality and their determinants is abundant in industrialized societies, evidence for low-income countries is scarce. In this article, we study educational inequality in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), a region where access to education has expanded significantly from 1990s onwards. First, we investigate trends in the relationship between parental socioeconomic status and children’s chances to attend and complete basic education for birth cohorts 1974-2003. Second, we explore the role of macro-level characteristics in explaining country-cohort variation in the strength of this relationship. We use data from 153 Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys carried out in 40 countries over 28 years (1990-2017) capturing over half a million children of age 14-16. Findings reveal that educational expansion in SSA has not led to more equal chances to complete basic education. While inequality to attend decreased, inequality to complete six or more grades among those attending remained stable. Cross-country variation of inequality in attendance is largely explained by macro-level differences in the colonial history, living conditions, government spending on education, private school enrolment, and school fee abolition reforms. Variation in inequality to complete, by contrast, is better captured by teaching quality and colonial history, underlining the importance of educational institutions in the stratification process.

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 Presented in Session 36. Economics, Human Capital and Labor Markets