Ethnic Group Disparities in Academic Skill Development across Four Low-Income Countries

Jessica Heckert, Pennsylvania State University
Rukmalie Jayakody, Pennsylvania State University

Many countries experienced dramatic economic growth in recent decades, but within country growth was unequally distributed, and disparities persist by race, ethnicity, and social class. Although education should promote equity across social groups, this idealization falls short when educational resources are unequally distributed. Instead, educational disparities perpetuate within country inequality. We examine disparities in academic skill development by ethnicity in Ethiopia and Vietnam, caste in India, and race in Peru using data from the Young Lives Study, a longitudinal study of childhood poverty. Three mechanisms may help explain this achievement gap. First, marginalized families have fewer economic and educational resources. Second, they are geographically concentrated in urban slums or inaccessible rural regions. Finally, they often prefer traditional languages not used in the educational system. We will decompose academic skill indicators to highlight the particular factors contributing to observed disparities. Understanding the role of these factors will elucidate policy intervention points.

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Presented in Session 159: What is 'Race' in Education Research?