Education policy and national income distribution: New evidence from recent cross -country data

Robert Jeffery Foran, Florida International University


In the mid 19th century, Horace Mann insisted that a broad provision of public schooling should take precedence over the liberal education of an elite group. In that regard, his generation constructed a state sponsored common schooling enterprise to educate the masses. More than 100 years later, the institution of public schooling fails to maintain an image fully representative of the ideals of equity and inclusion. Critical theory in educational thought associates the dominant practice of functional schooling with maintenance of the status quo, an unequal distribution of financial, political, and social resources. This study examined the empirical basis for the association of public schooling with the status quo using the most recent and comparable cross-country income inequality data. Multiple regression analysis evaluated the possible relationship between national income inequality change over the period 1985-2005 and variables representative of national measures of education supply in the prior decade. The estimated model of income inequality development attempted to quantify the relationship between education supply factors and subsequent income inequality developments by controlling for economic, demographic, and exogenous factors. The sample included all nations with comparable income inequality data over the measurement period, N = 56. Does public school supply affect national income distribution? The estimated model suggested that an increase in the average years of schooling among the population age 15 years or older, measured over the period 1975-1985, provided a mechanism that resulted in a more equal distribution of income over the period 1985-2005 among low and lower-middle income nations. The model also suggested that income inequality increased less or decreased more in smaller economies and when the percentage of the population age < 15 years grew more slowly over the period 1985-2000. In contrast, this study identified no significant relationship between school supply changes measured over prior periods and income inequality development over the period 1985-2005 among upper-middle and high income nations.

Subject Area

Economics|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Foran, Robert Jeffery, "Education policy and national income distribution: New evidence from recent cross -country data" (2008). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3343268.