A Global Equalizer? Education and the Recent Economic Convergence of World Countries

Sarah Giroux, Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, J.W. Sipple, Michel Tenikue

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Does education still serve as a great equalizer today? Does today’s worldwide expansion of schooling foster a global economic convergence? These questions need fresh answers at this time of growing concern over inequality. Past studies have abundantly documented the effects of schooling on within-country inequality, but we know little about corresponding effects on between-country inequality. We fill this gap by drawing on two innovations. The first is to formulate a theory of global inequality that integrates international differences in both the quantity and quality of education. The second, methodological, innovation is to propose and apply a method for decomposing trends in global inequality in GDP in terms of five social forces that include the quantity and quality of schooling. Analyses focus on the 1990–2010 period. The results confirm the continued salience of education: Trends in education account for as much as 80% of the 1990–2010 decline in between-country GDP inequality. However, we find a declining significance of “quantity” over “quality.” In sum, education remains salient as a global equalizer but its salience increasingly depends on bridging international differences in school quality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnnual Review of Comparative and International Education 2019
EditorsA.W. Wiseman
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-83867-723-7
ISBN (Print)978-1-83867-724-4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2020

Publication series

NameInternational Perspectives on Education and Society
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
ISSN (Print)1479-3679


  • education
  • school quality
  • stratification
  • global income inequality
  • decomposition methods
  • global development

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