Should your parent’s level of education affect your opportunities? From an equity perspective, it seems obvious that this relationship should not exist since it doesn’t give equal opportunities for all. But what about efficiency and what could be the implications in the government’s ability to raise a certain revenue? This post focuses on education resilience, giving some data about the relationship between social status and school results of children. Then, it will be the opportunity to enhance our awareness about the potential implications on the government revenues and on efficiency that we could have by weakening this a priori “unbreakable” link.
First of all, what exactly do we mean by education resilience? It can be defined as un unexpected situation in which an underprivileged student manages to achieve good results at school. In other words, a “resilient” student beats the odds stacked against him to be ranked among the top quarter of students. An important OCDE program about education is the PISA 2015 that has assessed 15 year-old students knowledge in science, mathematics and reading. Before getting into the data, the reader should be aware that PISA can not identify cause-effects relationship between policies and student outcomes. However, it can show us how education systems are different and help us to think about potential implications of resilience which is the purpose of the post. As regards the data, we will use the PISA results as students grades and the Index of Economic, Social and Cultural Status (ESCS) representing the social position of students. This ESCS index takes into account many variables: social position and education level of parents, number of books available at home, the spoken language at home, etc. Once all the students are ranked accordingly to their test results and as well as their ESCS index, we can draw conclusions about equity considerations. The most striking one states that socio-economically disadvantaged students and immigrant students across OCDE countries are respectively almost three times and two times more likely than advantaged students/non immigrants not to attain the baseline level of proficiency in science.
But what are the efficiency implications of not giving equal opportunities for everyone? Actually, it means we don’t use our most important assets of our economy, human capital, in the most productive way. Because socially disadvantaged potential talents can not be revealed due to the relationship discussed before, we could argue that they are wasted because of the fact that they are simply born at a “wrong” place. However, if a government gets to weaken this undeniable relationship, disfavoured students would be able to achieve better results and would access universities. Moreover, the literature agrees on the return of education in term of revenues. Indeed, a longer education generates lifelong higher revenues. So, it would increase the potential resources on which the government can raise a certain amount.
Eventually, the relationship between the parent’s social status and children education (and therefore their revenues) seems difficult to be stamped out. Nevertheless, this difficulty does not justify that we don’t worry about that issue since there are equity and efficiency considerations.
HINDRIKS, J., et GODIN, M., (2016), « Où est l’école de la résilience ? », in Itinera, pp. 1-30.
STIGLITZ, J., (2012), The price of inequality, New York, W.W Norton, p.149