2017-12-31 /

Inequalities in educational opportunities by socioeconomic and migration background: A comparative assessment across European societies

The power of school, family, neighborhood environments and country policies on the future of diverse children in Europe

This study analyses and quantifies inequalities in educational achievement in European countries according to children’s socioeconomic and migration background. Drawing on a quasi-panel methodology, international student assessment data (e.g., TIMSS, PIRLS, PISA) collected at different grades and ages (grades 4 and 8 and age 15) are pooled with adult survey and assessment data (e.g., PIAAC), allowing for comprehensive assessment of inequalities in mathematics, science and literacy skills over time and at various stages of the educational career for various cohorts.

The authors show that there are substantial differences between socioeconomic groups (indicated by parental education and the number of books at home), as well as between migrants (and their descendants) and non-migrants in Europe. The magnitude of the inequalities differs widely across countries. Socioeconomic inequalities are particularly large in Central-Eastern European countries, while differences between migrants and nonmigrants are particularly large in North-Western Continental European countries. While a substantial part of the differences by migration background is explained by taking socioeconomic background into account, effects of migration background prevail after statistical control.

The report discusses how inequalities may be a function of growing up, living and working in cognitively less stimulating and beneficial environments. It also proposes that high-quality environments in primary and secondary schools may act as equalizers for children and young adults culturally and socioeconomically diverse in Europe.