Working Paper
Inequality in Income and Access to Education

A Cross-Country Analysis

In the current debate on the relationship between inequality in income distribution and growth one of the possible link works through the access to education. After reviewing this debate, a formal model shows how the imperfection of financial markets makes educational choices dependent on the distribution of family incomes. This leads to two testable predictions in the analysis of aggregate data on school enrolments: a negative (linear) relation with the Gini coefficient on incomes distribution; and a positive dependence on public resources invested in education and/or on skill premium in the labour market. These predictions are then tested on a (unbalanced) panel of 102 countries for the period 1960-90. The main findings of this analysis are that, once we control for the degree of development with the (log of) per capita output, financial constraints seem mainly relevant in limiting the access to secondary education. However, when considering gender differences, there is evidence that female participation in education is more strongly conditioned by family wealth, starting from primary education. On the contrary there is no clear evidence of a relevant impact of invested resources, but at the tertiary level.