Framework study on socio-economic inequalities in Europe

Drivers of inequalities and typology of inequalities

School allocation and educational tracking policies can have a profound impact on inequalities. This section is concerned with allocation and tracking policies implemented at the national level; allocation and tracking policies implemented at the local, i.e., city or regional level, are considered in section 4.11.1. The most direct effect of school allocation and educational tracking policies is on educational inequalities, but inequalities regarding labour market outcomes, such as income or job security, are also influenced by such policies. School allocation policies are important as they determine the student composition of schools, which in turn affects the outcomes associated with peer effects, neighbourhood effects and family background effects. Schools with a student population drawn from mainly low-income households tend to have lower educational attainment than those with a population from mainly high-income households. As students with minority ethnicity or immigrant backgrounds are more likely to come from lower income households, this means there often is an ethnic attainment gap as well. The use of catchment areas as a school allocation method can reinforce existing residential segregation and associated inequalities (Boterman, 2019; Frankenberg, 2013). As mentioned in Section 4.3.2, education systems where parental choice in school allocation has been derestricted results in parents with greater financial and cultural capital having both a greater choice of schools and a greater ability to exercise that choice, which also contributes to socioeconomic and ethnic attainment gaps. Affluent parents can also exercise choice by sending their children to private schools. Finally, education systems where tracking or streaming takes place, or school places are assigned based on performance in academic entrance tests, also generally have larger socioeconomic and ethnic attainment gaps, as students from high-income households have greater access to educational resources and, therefore, tend to do better on academic selection tests and are more likely to be allocated to academic rather than vocational tracks. Those attending academic track schools are more likely to continue into higher education and enter the labour market in a higher position.