The Impact of Education Policies on Socioeconomic Inequality in Student Achievement: A Review of Comparative Studies

  • Rolf StrietholtEmail author
  • Jan-Eric Gustafsson
  • Nina Hogrebe
  • Victoria Rolfe
  • Monica Rosén
  • Isa Steinmann
  • Kajsa Yang Hansen
Part of the Education Policy & Social Inequality book series (EPSI, volume 4)


This chapter reviews international comparative studies on the determinants of socioeconomic inequality in student performance. We were interested in studies of explanatory variables that are amenable to educational policy interventions. To identify such publications, we developed a comprehensive search strategy and conducted an electronic search based on six databases. We also manually searched two existing hand-picked reviews. After duplicates were removed, the search resulted in 814 references, of which a total of 35 studies met the eligibility criteria. The included studies investigated diverse topics such as learning environments inside and outside of school, educational expenditure, teacher education, autonomy, accountability, differentiation, and competition from private schools. Most studies are descriptive in nature and their findings are sometimes ambiguous. Despite these limitations, we tentatively conclude that the opportunity of choice reinforces inequality. Measures that target social selection can be effective.


Student achievement Socioeconomic status Inequality Comparative analysis 


Funding Note

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 765400 and was supported by Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) [grant number 2015-01080].


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rolf Strietholt
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jan-Eric Gustafsson
    • 1
  • Nina Hogrebe
    • 3
  • Victoria Rolfe
    • 1
  • Monica Rosén
    • 1
  • Isa Steinmann
    • 2
  • Kajsa Yang Hansen
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.TU Dortmund UniversityDortmundGermany
  3. 3.University of MünsterMünsterGermany
  4. 4.University WestTrollhättanSweden

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