School Segregation Across the World: Has Any Progress Been Made in Reducing the Separation of the Rich from the Poor?


The segregation of secondary school students into different schools has important implications for educational inequality, social cohesion and intergenerational mobility. Previous research has demonstrated how between-school segregation varies significantly across countries, with high levels of segregation occurring in central European nations that ‘track’ children into different schools and much lower levels in Scandinavia. This paper contributes to this literature by examining whether industrialised countries have made any progress in reducing levels of between-school segregation over time. Using six waves of data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), this work shows how the segregation of rich and poor students has remained broadly unchanged across OECD countries. This is despite major economic and political events occurring during this period, along with the introduction of numerous policy initiatives designed to reduce socioeconomic gaps. Therefore, the conclusions indicate that structural factors are likely to be the main drivers of between-school segregation (e.g. neighbourhood segregation or long-standing school admission policies) and that education policymakers may need to be much more radical if they are to foster greater levels of integration between the rich and the poor.


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Gabriel Gutiérrez and Rodrigo Torres acknowledge the support of Becas Chile-CONICYT, 72150359–72,130,207

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Correspondence to John Jerrim.

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Gutiérrez, G., Jerrim, J. & Torres, R. School Segregation Across the World: Has Any Progress Been Made in Reducing the Separation of the Rich from the Poor?. J Econ Inequal (2019).

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  • School segregation
  • PISA
  • School composition