March 6, 2020
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How have inequalities in educational spending in the US evolved over the past five decades?

Are educational spending in the US more or less equally distributed than in the past ? This working paper by Cécile Bonneau aims to describe the concentration of investments in education both for K-12 and for higher education in the US from 1970 to 2017. Even if the distribution of education spending is less unequal than the one of income or even wages, these spending are still very unequally distributed and, like for income and wages, inequalities have significantly increased over the past four decades, due to spending in higher education.

Indeed, the top 10% of students for whom the most is spent used to have 28% of the total amount of instructional expenditure in higher education in 1970 and now have more than 36%. Inequalities in educational investments are coming from two sources: unequal length of studies and unequal spending per grade, the latter being the main driver of the concentration observed. As a matter of fact, if everyone were to have the same educational attainment, the level of inequalities would almost be the same. The only way to reduce significantly the concentration of spending on education would be to equalize spending within each grade across districts and universities.

For a shorter exposition of this working paper, please read the issue brief


Figure: Growth incidence curve of global educational spending from the 1970’s to the 2000’s