Skip to main content

Bridging the gaps: inequalities in children’s educational outcomes in Ireland

Abstract

Recent developments in the inequality literature have stressed the importance of inequality of opportunity as opposed to inequality of outcome. In this paper we investigate the presence of inequality of opportunity in two measures of educational achievement for a representative sample of Irish 9 year olds. Students are partitioned into four groups according to maternal education levels and gaps in outcomes are calculated between each group. Quantile decompositions of the pairwise gaps reveal substantial gaps between groups and that almost half of the gaps can be explained by differences in characteristics between the groups. Detailed decompositions show consistently significant effects for income, number of childrens books in the home and maternal age.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Ashenfelter, O., Harmon, C., Oosterbeek, H.: A review of estimates of the schooling-earning relationship, with tests for publication bias. Labour Econ. 6, 453–470 (1999)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Baltagi, B., Ghosh, P.K.: Replication of unconditional quantile regressions by firpo, fortin and lemieux (2009). J. Appl. Econ., Article first published online: 14 JUL. https://doi.org/10.1002/jae.2477 (2015)

  3. Blinder, A.: Wage discrimination: reduced form and structural estimates. J. Hum. Resour. 8, 436–455 (1973)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bjorklund, A., Salvanes, K.: Education and family background: Mechanisms and policies. IZA working papers. DP, 5002 (2010)

  5. Breen, R., Goldthorpe, J.: Class inequality and meritocracy: a critique of saunders and an alternative analysis. Br. J. Sociol. 50, 1–27 (1999)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Breen, R., Goldthorpe, J.: Class, mobility and merit: the experience of two british birth cohorts. Eur. Sociol. Rev. 17, 81–101 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Chiu, M., Chow, B.: Culture, motivation and reading achievement: high school students in 41 countries. Learn. Individ. Differ. 20, 579–592 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Clotfelter, C., Ladd, H., Vigdor, J.: The academic achievement gap in grades 3 to 8. Rev. Econ. Stat. 91, 398–419 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cunha, F., Heckman, J.: The technology of skill formation. National bureau of economic research, WP 12840 (2007)

  10. Cutler, D., Lleras-Muney, A.: Understanding differences in health behaviours by education. J. Health Econ. 29, 1–28 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Denny, K.: What did abolishing university fees in Ireland do? UCD centre for economic research working paper WP10/17 (2010)

  12. Dickson, M., Harmon, C.: Economic returns to education: what we know, what we don’t know and where are we going – some brief pointers. Econ. Educ. Rev. 30, 1118–1122 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Doris, A., Neill, D., Sweetman, O.: Gender, single sex schooling and maths achievement. Econ. Educ. Rev. 35, 104–119 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Dworkin, R.: What is inequality? Part 2: equality of resources. Philos. Public Aff. 10, 283–345 (1981)

    Google Scholar 

  15. Essama-Nssah, B., Lambert, P.: Influence functions for distributional statistics. Society for the study of economic inequality working paper. ECINEQ WP 2011–236 (2011)

  16. Evans, M., Kelley, J., Sikora, J., Treiman, D.: Family scholarly culture and educational success: books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 28, 171–197 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Feinstein, L.: Inequality in the early cognitive development of British children in the 1970 cohort. Economica 70, 73–97 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Ferreira, F., Peragine, V.: Equality of opportunity: theory and evidence. World bank policy research paper 7217 (2015)

  19. Firpo, S., Fortin, N., Lemieux, T.: Unconditional quantile regressions. Econometrica 77, 953–973 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fortin, N., Lemieux, T., Firpo, S.: DecompositionMethods in Economics. In: Ashenfelter, O., Card, D. (eds.) Handbook of Labor Economics. 1st edn., vol. 4(4). Elsevier (2011)

  21. Hanushek, E.: The economics of schooling: production and efficiency in public schools. J. Econ. Lit. 23, 1141–1177 (1986)

    Google Scholar 

  22. Haveman, R., Wolfe, B.: Children’s prospects and children’s policy. J. Econ. Perspect. 7, 153–174 (1993)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Lord, F.M.: Applications of Item Response Theory to Practical Testing Problems. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ (1980)

    Google Scholar 

  24. Murray, A., McCrory, C., Thornton, M., Williams, J., Quail, A., Swords, L., et al.: Growing up in Ireland: national longitudinal study of children: design, implementation and procedure for the child cohort. Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dublin (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  25. Oaxaca, R.: Male-female wage differentials in urban labour markets. Int. Econ. Rev. 14, 693–709 (1973)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Oreopolous, P., Salvanes, K.: Priceless: the non-pecuniary benefits to schooling. J. Econ. Perspect. 25, 159–184 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Porter, S.: Quantile regression: analyzing changes in distributions instead of means. In: Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, pp. 335–381. Springer International Publishing (2015)

  28. Rosa Dias, P., Jones, A.: Giving equality of opportunity a fair innings. Health Econ. 16, 109–112 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Romer, J.: Economic development as opportunity equalisation. World bank policy research working paper 6530 (2013)

  30. Wagstaff, A., Kanbur, R.: How useful is inequality of opportunity as a policy construct? CEPR discussion paper DP 10508 (2015)

  31. Williams, J., Greene, S., Doyle, E., et al.: The lives of 9 year olds: growing up in Ireland, national longitudinal study of children (report 1 of the child cohort) Dublin; The Stationery Office (2009)

Download references

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to Donal O Neill, Barry Reilly, Chris Whelan, Kevin Denny and participants at a Geary Institute seminar for useful comments and discussion. I would also like to thank the editor and three anonymous referees for very helpful comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimer applies.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Madden.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(DOC 535 KB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Madden, D. Bridging the gaps: inequalities in children’s educational outcomes in Ireland. J Econ Inequal 16, 103–122 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10888-017-9358-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Quantile decomposition
  • Inequality in education