The Journal of Economic Inequality

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 489–515

Equality of opportunity in educational achievement in the Middle East and North Africa

  • Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
  • Nadia Belhaj Hassine
  • Ragui Assaad


This paper is an empirical investigation of inequality of education opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). We use student scores from tests administered by the international consortium Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) for a number of MENA countries and over time since 1999 to estimate the effect of circumstances children are born into on their academic achievement in science and mathematics. We find that inequality of opportunities explains a significant part of the inequality in educational achievements in most MENA countries, but there is ample heterogeneity. Family background variables are the most important determinants of inequality in achievement, followed by community characteristics. The results show that, despite great efforts in past decades to invest in free public education, most MENA countries are less opportunity equal in educational achievement than European countries, and several are less so than Latin America and the United States. From the variation in inequality of education opportunities across countries and over time we draw lessons on the influence of different education systems or changes in policy on equality of opportunity.


Equality of opportunity Education Middle East and North Africa 

JEL Classifications

D63 I24 O15 O53 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
    • 1
  • Nadia Belhaj Hassine
    • 2
  • Ragui Assaad
    • 3
  1. 1.Virginia Tech and ERFBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.The World BankWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.University of Minnesota and ERFMinneapolisUSA

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