14th journées Louis-André Gérard-Varet

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Inequality of opportunity at school in rural Bangladesh: to what extent are pupils’ efforts constrained by family background?
Gaston Yalonetzky, Niaz Asadullah, Alain Trannoy, Sandy Tubeuf

Last modified: 2015-03-15


The notion of inequality of opportunity draws a distinction between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” sources of differences in wellbeing outcomes. While legitimate differences can be attributed to effort and illegitimate differences to circumstances (beyond people’s control), the cut between the two sources is not clear. Specifically, legitimate inequality may be undermined by the importance of the correlation between effort and circumstances (e.g. family background) as underlined by John Roemer. This paper focuses on evaluating the importance of the correlation between circumstances and effort when measuring inequalities of opportunity in education. The school experience and performance are particularly interesting because they strongly impact on future adult life. We use data from a unique survey on secondary school education in rural Bangladesh with two indicators of performance, 14 indicators of students’ effort, and a large set of circumstances. We find that the correlation between effort and circumstances represents 40% of the contribution of effort to the total variance in both Mathematics and English test scores. This result suggests that while the normative position on how to treat the correlation between circumstances and effort made little difference in health in France (10% according to Jusot et al. 2013), it does matter in education, and confirms the importance of social determinism at school.


Inequality of opportunity, education, rural Bangladesh