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Education inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Across LAC countries, there are large differences in the proportion of the school-age population that graduates from upper secondary school (normally attended at ages 15–17) as well as those that obtain a university education.


  • Parental background plays a large role in determining the educational attainment of their children, especially for higher education. The intergenerational transmission of education in LAC is, on average, considerably stronger than in the United States and Korea but similar to what is found in other comparator countries such as Spain and Turkey.


  • Gender gaps in education, as in all OECD countries, favor women. There remains a significant rural-urban gap in educational attainment, which has increased in many countries over the last twenty years, especially for higher education.


  • International test scores for 15-year-old children (PISA) show that the LAC region has low average quality education compared with other countries in the world. Within LAC countries, the correlation between test scores and parental education is high, although not significantly above what is observed elsewhere. The much better performance of children who attend private, as opposed to public, schools is very large relative to other countries. Furthermore, private schools are very segregated in terms of the socio-economic background of peers.


  • Returns to education, albeit decreasing over time, remain extremely high in Latin America compared to other regions. This increases income inequality and education accounts for a larger share of overall wage inequality than in comparator economies.

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