Ashraf, Reem (1); Tiwari, Manik (2) (2017). 'Inequalities in Private Expenditure in Schooling amidst Universalisation of Secondary Education in India' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


The paper investigates the incidence of inequality in household expenditure on secondary schooling. The study decomposes inequality and has traced its incidence and perpetuation across fifteen major states in India, using national level data. The paper fills the critical research gap suggestive of the magnitude of the economic constrains at the disposal of households and resulting inequalities in opportunities at secondary level. Such opportunities are critical for shaping the opportunity sets of students in secondary education and their vital capabilities.


The year 2005 marked the setting up of committee on secondary education (CABE 2005), subsequent national plans (11th and 12th) set forth to take up the universalization of secondary education with the launch of Rastriya Madhyamic Shiksha Abhiyan RMSA. After the legislative framework of Right to Education (2009), covering elementary education, the inequality in transition from elementary to secondary and persistence of inequality in participation at secondary education remains a serious concern. This becomes more obvious when there are region and state-wise inequalities that becomes even worse for the disadvantaged groups (Lewin, 2011; Siddhu, 2011).

The empirical analysis on measurement of inequalities in education in Indian context have used Gini Coefficient, Education Gini (Desai et al, 2015; Agrawal, 2014), study by Asadullah & Yalonetzky (2010), have used dissimilarity index and Overlap index in addition to Gini. These studies have essentially focused on enrollment, years of schooling or educational attainment. The research on inequality in terms of private expenditure is further limited; study by Tilak (2009), has established the relationship between private expenditure in education and poverty. The proposed paper fills the critical gap of empirically establishing the incidence of inequality in household expenditure at secondary level of education.


There has been recent literature evidence on the Indian experience with private and public schooling (Muralidharan and Kremer 2008, French and Kingdon 2010 Muralidharan & Sundharaman 2011, 2013; Singh 2013), but this evidence is limited at the level of secondary education.  The limited empirical evidence and discussion suggest that the cost of education at secondary level becomes significant determinants of access and participation, where private cost incurred to households becomes major constrain in participation (Azam & Kingdon (2011); Lewin (2011) and Siddhu, (2011). The inequalities in private expenditure on education therefore would also signal the economic inequalities and social disadvantage that has prevailed in ensuring access and planning of schools.


Using National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data for the year 2007-08 and 2014 (NSSO 64th & 71st rounds), the study analyses the incidence of inequality in household expenditure in education by adjusting the 2007-08 Per-capita Consumption Expenditure on education to 2014 prices. The analysis engages with Theils’ and Atkinson’s indices in addition to tradition Gini Coefficient to measure and critically comment on inequality in household expenditure.


Broad highlights of the analysis suggest glaring and persistent inequalities. The incidence of inequality reports an increase across states, however exceptions being Karnataka (static, no change) and Bihar (registering a clear fall in inequality). The pattern of inequality is suggestive of the gendered allocation of resources and caste-wise unequal spending; the magnitude of within-group inequality is however dominant as compared to the between-group inequality. The regional patterns and the distribution suggest that there inequality has not only persisted but increased - more for rural areas. Following research questions have been specifically addressed:


1)    Tracing the path and distribution of inequality in private expenditure in secondary education over 2007 - 2014.

2)    To decompose and understand between-group and within-group inequalities across proposed indices.

3)    To situate existing inequalities within the framework of policy discourse on secondary education and re-defining the ‘equality of opportunity’ and its implication on opportunity sets of students.

The results also approve of the economic inequalities and socio-economic discrimination in planning and access to secondary schooling. The discussion of results in depth have attempted to conceptulise conversion factors that potentially constrains and shapes the opportunity sets of students and re-defines equality of opportunity in broader manner.


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