Inequality in Learning Outcomes

  • Nichole Torpey-Saboe


This chapter turns to inequality in learning outcomes, as measured by within-country dispersion in standardized test scores. Torpey-Saboe finds that the relationship between globalization and education inequality is consistent whether inequality is measured in years of education or test score achievement. Labor-abundant countries open to trade have lower education inequality than other types of economies. The relationships between modernization and inequality and political regime and inequality are not consistent with the findings in Chap.  5 on access to education, however. While modernization is associated with lower inequality in years of education, it is associated with higher inequality in terms of learning outcomes. Also, the author finds that in countries with high levels of income inequality, democracy is associated with greater disparities in learning outcomes. Several examples from different countries, including Chile and former Soviet bloc countries are discussed.


  1. Albertus, M., & Menaldo, V. (2016). Capital in the twenty-first century—In the rest of the world. Annual Review of Political Science, 19, 49–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkinson, A. B. (2015). Inequality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartels, L. M. (2009). Economic inequality and political representation. The Unsustainable American State, 167–196.Google Scholar
  4. Bird, R. M., & Zolt, E. M. (2015). Fiscal contracting in Latin America. World Development, 67, 323–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bourdillon, M., & Boyden, J. (Eds.). (2014). Growing up in poverty: Findings from Young Lives. Springer.Google Scholar
  6. Camfield, L. (2011). The European Journal of Development Research, 23, 669. Scholar
  7. Dahl Robert, A. (1961). Who governs. Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven: Yale University.Google Scholar
  8. Duncan, G. J., & Murnane, R. J. (2011). Whither opportunity?: Rising inequality, schools, and children’s life chances. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  9. Flemming, J. S., & Micklewright, J. (2000). Income distribution, economic systems and transition. In Handbook of income distribution (Vol. 1, pp. 843–918). Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Galbraith, J. K., & Kum, H. (2005). Estimating the inequality of household incomes: A statistical approach to the creation of a dense and consistent global data set. Review of Income and Wealth, 51(1), 115–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gilens, M., & Page, B. I. (2014). Testing theories of American politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens. Perspectives on Politics, 12(3), 564–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Iversen, T., & Soskice, D. (2006). Electoral institutions and the politics of coalitions: Why some democracies redistribute more than others. American Political Science Review, 100(2), 165–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Korpi, W. (1983). The democratic class struggle. Boston: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Massachusetts Department of Education Finance Statistics:
  15. Micklewright, J. (1999). Education, inequality and transition. Economics of Transition, 7(2), 343–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Murray, H. (2012). Is school education breaking the cycle of poverty for children?: Factors shaping education inequalities in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. Oxford: Young Lives.Google Scholar
  17. OECD. (1998). Reviews of national policies for education: Russian Federation. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  18. Piketty, T. (2014). Capital in the twenty-first century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pells, K. (2011). Poverty, risk and families’ responses: Evidence from Young Lives. Retrieved from
  20. Pells, K., & Woodhead, M. (2014). Changing children’s lives: Risks and opportunities. Oxford: Young Lives, Department for International Development, University of Oxford.Google Scholar
  21. Reardon, S. F. (2011). The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations. Whither Opportunity, 91–116.Google Scholar
  22. Stephens, J. D. (1979). The transition from capitalism to socialism. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Torche, F. (2005). Privatization reform and inequality of educational opportunity: The case of Chile. Sociology of Education, 78(4), 316–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Torpey-Saboe, N. (2015). Does NGO presence decrease government spending? A look at municipal spending on social services in Brazil. World Development, 74, 479–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Woldehanna, T., Gudisa, R., Tafere, Y., & Pankhurst, A. (2011). Understanding changes in the lives of poor children: Initial findings from Ethiopia: Round 3 survey report. Oxford: Young Lives, Department of International Development, University of Oxford.Google Scholar
  26. World Bank. (2018). World Development Report: Learning to realize education’s promise.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nichole Torpey-Saboe
    • 1
  1. 1.Colorado Department of Higher EducationDenverUSA

Personalised recommendations