Worldwide inequality and poverty in cognitive results: cross-sectional evidence and time-based trends

Autor(es): Crouch, Luis; Gustafsson, Martin

Date: 2018

Pages: 61 p.

Serie: RISE working paper

Series Volume: 18/019


This paper assembles a large database of learning outcomes inequality data, and explores key issues related to the measurement of inequality in learning outcomes, with a view to helping countries and international agencies come to grips with the key dimensions and features of this inequality. Two issues in particular are explored. First, whether, as countries improve their average cognitive performance (as measured by international learning assessments) from the lowest to middling levels, they typically reduce cognitive skill inequality or, more importantly perhaps, whether they reduce absolute lack of skills. Second, whether most of cognitive skills inequality is between or within countries. In dealing with these measurement issues, the paper also explores the degree to which measures of cognitive skills are “proper” cardinal variables lending themselves to generalizations from the field of income and wealth distribution – the field for which many measures of inequality and its decomposition were first applied. Finally, the paper explores the practical use of school-level statistics from the test data to inform strategies for reducing inequalities.

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