opportunity in education. In this paper, I focus on two countries, Chile and Norway, which have a similar equality ranking in Schütz et al (2008), but very different educational systems (one largely privatized and the other one of the free-education- for-all type), and follow the same analytical methodology to detect differences in equality of opportunity between the two countries. However, the family-background effect here is represented by a larger number of variables –including household income-, in order to pinpoint the specific characteristics that it comprises in each country. The dataset was obtained from the PISA database for the international standardized tests of 2009.
The concept of equality of opportunity (EOp) goes back to Roemer (1993, 1998) who argues that a society shall guarantee its members equal access to advantage regardless of their circumstances, while holding them responsible for turning that access into actual advantage by the application of effort. Such arguments have been on the political agenda across the European Union, where the recent enlargements have brought together countries with rather different economic, social, and political backgrounds. This paper investigates how family background influences income acquisition in 15 European countries. It also scrutinizes how governments affect EOp through the design of their tax and transfer schemes. Our overall results suggest that the link between family background and economic success is usually tighter in relatively poor countries than in rich countries. Moreover, we find a clear country clustering for the Scandinavian, the Continental European, and the Anglo-Saxon countries. For Eastern Europe, our results are less definite. Looking at the impact of the tax and benefit schemes in the EU, it can be concluded that both taxes and transfers reduce inequality of opportunities, with social benefits typically playing the key role. Furthermore, the equalizing impacts of the tax benefit system on inequality of opportunity differ substantially from the ones observed when referring to the traditional notion of inequality of outcomes.
Let's imagine that the focus is on equality of opportunity in labour income and it appears that gender is an important determinant, since i) women tend to be more represented in low-wage professions, ii) within the same occupation, women tend to perform the lowest paid tasks or have limited prospects for professional development; iii) everything else equal (including education, occupations and tasks), women are paid less per hour; iv) everything else equal (including education, occupations, tasks and wages) women tend to work less hours. Point i) – which is consistent with vertical segregation- calls for policies directed at increasing the educational attainment of women, their level of skills and their education/professional aspirations. Policies could be financial, such as monetary support to females attending tertiary education (e.g. reduced fees, scholarships etc.), or non-financial, such as policies directed at breaking gender stereotypes (e.g. policies for increasing the number of females pursuing STEM education). This second type of policies could also work to reduce the effect of point ii) –horizontal segregation- on the gender gap. Vertical and horizontal segregation could also be reduced by setting gender quotas. The inequality discussed at point iii) could be eliminated by policies directed at insuring equal pay for man and women with same individual characteristics and employed in identical occupations and performing identical tasks. Point iv) type of inequality is more subtle, as it appears to stem from "choices", typically in connection with household related tasks (e.g. taking care of the children and the elderly). The problem is that, in this area, the border between "free" and "constrained" choices is very fuzzy and policies should make sure that women' choices in relation to labour market participation are not imposed on them. Policies favouring parental leave for males work to reduce gender stereotypes and hence to reduce the relevance of this type of inequality.
There is an additional problem with Kollar and Loi’s view that can be traced back to Rawls’s formulation of FEO. As I have interpreted it, the avowed aim of FEO is to mitigate the effects of class origins on people’s prospects in life. But why should we focus solely on class, given that there are other social relationships into which one is born that may also have a deep impact on one’s chances in life? Should not a principle of fair equality of opportunity also aim to mitigate the effects of gender (understood as a set of norms governing social relationships), or ethnicity, or culture, on people’s chances in life, given that each of these can deeply influence the development of a child’s potential and their expectations and ambitions in ways that are at least partially independent of class origin? 17 In the light of these reflections, we might refine FEO
In the economics and social sciences literature, there are numerous discussions about equality, justice, and government actions. The main point is that meeting equality in a certain area may lead to inequality in other areas (Dworkin, 2000). For example, ideal income equality may require the inequality of welfare, resources, and opportunity. Because people with different levels of comfort, may experience different tastes, may have different preferences, and may benefit differently from resources and opportunity. In the meantime, some people believe in the necessity of equality of income and a number of people believe in the equality of opportunity. Many people got involved in the discussion after John Rawls’s publication of the “Theory of justice”. Amartya Sen (1980) believes that individual capabilities should be considered as a measure of welfare. On the other hand, some people like Arneson (1989), Cohen (1989), and Roemer (1993) are considered as pioneers of the theory of equality of opportunity. Other people like Dworkin believe in equality of resources. 1
to all and paid for by transfer payments. This would echo recent discussion on the ethical acceptability of tiered healthcare . A related, earlier argument pre- mised on the core value of equality of opportunity is that social resources such as healthcare are to be allocated so as to ensure that everyone has a ‘decent minimum’ and can attain the normal opportunity range for his or her society . In Buchanan’ s early view, the popularity of this notion hinges on a number of attractive features. First, “the idea of a decent minimum is to be understood in a society-relative sense. Surely it is plausible to as- sume that, as with other rights to goods or services, the content of the right must depend upon the resources available in a given society and perhaps also upon a cer- tain consensus of expectations among its members” . Clearly a societal debate is needed on the content of such a decent minimum , but in the context of organ transplantation, a decent minimum might well include only one kidney transplant because of the limited extent of available kidneys and perhaps because the expecta- tions of society are such that one turn on a list for all is better than two turns for some.
With regards to equality of opportunity as a societal, rather than simply an educational issue, I ould like to etu to F a ke s pai ti g, The Damned Being Cast into Hell. What is needed as a first step towards rectifying this scene is not the current strategy of helping specially selected individuals who already conform to establishment expectations. This is neither fair nor will it result in equality because it does nothing to dismantle the pyramid and, for the majority, all the external familial, societal and cultural pressures and influences will remain, countering and resisting any number of aspirational speeches. Nor would a quick, brutal demolition be the way forward: one only need consider the cruelty and blood-shed of various revolutions and the inevitable instability or misuse of power in their wake to know the price of brutality for the greater good. Rather than making a tweak here and there it needs to be turned on its axis by 90 degrees so that the vertical becomes a horizontal. What is needed is nothing less than a paradigm shift so that instead of
How would one measure the degree to which opportunities are equally or unequally distributed? The most common way has been to look at social mobility, and, in several countries, social mobility has now come to occupy a central place in political debate (Goldthorpe and Jackson, 2007). Rates of social mobility have come to be a yardstick by which government policies to further equality of opportunity are to be judged. In Britain a discussion paper written for the Cabinet Office in 2001 put this quite bluntly: “lack of social mobility”, the author wrote, “implies inequality of opportunity” (Aldridge, Stephen, 2001, “Social Mobility: a discussion paper”, UK Cabinet Office, available at www.pm.gov.uk/files/pdf/socialmobility.pdf.). Indeed, it may seem unproblematic to argue that if there is more social mobility there must be more equal opportunities. Social scientists themselves have said, or, at any rate, implied as much, by equating social mobility with equality of opportunity. For example, one of my Geary lecture predecessors, Gary Becker, wrote in his
Feelings of a need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the education system at large were also entering the agenda at the time. In this way, a belief that an element of competition introduced within the comprehensive school system would help to ensure the aims of efficiency and effectiveness gained ground. Gradually, legislative changes were introduced, bringing several far- reaching changes to the level of schools - more freedom was given to schools and municipalities to enable them to design basic education services based on local needs and priorities. By the mid-1990s, schools were encouraged to become different from one another by allowing them to design their own curricula and specialise (see sections 1.2, 2.3 and 2.4). Towards the end of the decade, the concept of parental choice within the comprehensive school had become a part of the new educational legislation after a long debate in the Parliament in which the issue of equality of opportunity also entered the agenda. It has been argued that a surprising consensus has governed the adoption of market-oriented education policy in Finland where there has been ‘an unshaken belief in the functioning of market mechanisms and their blessings also in the field of education policy’ (Kivirauma 2001: 87). The parliamentary debate in 1997 and 1998 ensuing the implementation of the Basic Education Act 1998 showed, however, that not everyone accepted the need to introduce elements of market-oriented reforms within the Finnish comprehensive school system (Finnish Parliamentary Papers 1997, 1998) (see section 2.5). The early 2000s have brought with them more changes in the form of a reformed National Framework Curriculum of 2004, and perhaps surprisingly, the effect of some of these changes has limited freedoms given to schools during the 1990s. It is clear that the national education policy in Finland has been marked by an almost continuous need to change and reform, at times in a rather contradictory fashion.
We analyze in this paper the impact of different policies on the investment of the families in the education of their children. Families make decisions on the level of human capital of their offsprings regarding the future income that this capital entails (under the assumption that higher education levels yield higher expected income). The families' optimal investment in education depends on their preferences (summarized by their time discount and risk aversion parameters) and their circumstances (initial wealth, parents' education, and children' natural abilities). The public authority designs a balanced tax/subsidy scheme in order to maximize aggregate welfare. We compare the case of a purely utilitarian planner with one that cares about the equality of opportunity.
This paper investigates whether at the interaction between family background and school tracking affects human capital accumulation. Our a priori view is that more tracking should reinforce the role of parental privilege, and thereby reduce equality of opportunity. Compared to the current literature, which focuses on early outcomes, such as test scores at 13 and 15, we look at later outcomes, including literacy, dropout rates, college enrolment, employability and earnings. While we do not confirm previous results that tracking reinforces family background effects on literacy, we do confirm our view when looking at educational attainment and labour market outcomes. When looking at early wages, we find that parental background effects are stronger when tracking starts earlier. We reconcile the apparently contrasting results on literacy, educational attainment and earnings by arguing that the signalling role of formal education – captured by attainment – matters more than actual skills – measured by literacy – in the early stages of labour market experience.
Published in September 2016, the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 sets out the strategic direction and goals of the Department of Education and Skills for the education and training system and has a strong focus on provision for disadvantaged students through harnessing education to break down barriers for groups at risk of exclusion. The Plan sets out five high level Goals, one of which is to improve the progress of learners at risk of educational disadvantage and learners with special educational needs. The Plan notes that, while considerable progress has been made in advancing equity and equality, significant challenges remain. The publication of a new DEIS Plan is central to the provision of supports and resources to schools catering for concentrated levels of disadvantaged pupils. In addition to the commitment to publish a new DEIS Plan, actions directly related to tackling educational disadvantage include:
Paradoxically, the group in regard to which Bentham does seek to secure improved conditions of interest formation are the indigent poor, and he believes himself able so to do because the apprentices pay, and more than pay, for the expenditure involved. Any project by Bentham to advocate any broader based policy which could come under the rubric of ‘opportunity’, is debarred from consideration simply by its expense, and the necessity to raise public revenues in order to meet that expense. The security providing principle contains a central contradiction. Negative rights to forbearance, and crucially the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour unmolested, conflict directly with the goal of equality in the distribution of the conditions of interest formation. The bankruptcy of the fallacy of non-interference indicates precisely that the formal distribution of equal rights to appropriation signally fails to insure the neutrality between individual conceptions of interest which is held to be at the centre of Bentham’s theory of justice.
With respect to the resistance generated by negative perceptions, the reasons most frequently evoked are that these programs amount to reverse discrimination, that they use arbitrary quotas, and that such measures run against the merit principle. The Conseil addresses these fears, and argues the view that positive action must be understood as a means used by society for the purpose of correcting inequalities. Positive action must be perceived as a dynamic tool used for countering discrimination by producing a situation of greater proportional equality. And by eliminating the obstacles facing discriminated groups, the merit principle is even more significantly maintained and reinforced. The Conseil also wishes to stress that a quantitative objective is used in such programs to measure the results of efforts expended towards the goal of employment equity, and thus should not be confused with a quota.