Home / Politics / Policy /  Your income today depends on how far your parents studied

Mumbai: An average Indian’s educational attainments are largely determined by the educational attainments of his or her parents, according to a global database on educational mobility published recently by the World Bank. The Global Database on Intergenerational Mobility shows that educational mobility in India is significantly lower than in peer countries.

A World Bank report based on the database, Fair Progress: Economic Mobility across Generations Around the World which compared the trajectories of cohorts across six large developing countries across the world —India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Egypt and Brazil —found that India fared the worst among this set of countries.

The database considers the intergenerational persistence in education for each cohort, or the extent to which each cohort’s educational attainments is determined by the educational attainment of its parents, to measure the level of educational mobility in each country.

Although parental education casts less of an influence today than it did several decades ago, its influence in India is still higher than in other countries. This means that you are less likely to rise up the educational ladder if you happen to be born to uneducated parents in India. This also means that the chances of upward income mobility are lower in India than in several other countries. As the database shows, parental education has a greater influence on the offspring’s income in India than in peer countries.

The World Bank database is based on household surveys conducted across the world, and makes adjustments for differences in surveys across countries. For India, the database relies on the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) conducted last in 2011-12.

All six developing countries considered in the World Bank report have advanced in terms of absolute conditional mobility over the past few decades. The absolute conditional mobility indicates the chances of a child achieving a higher category or educational level than his/her parent (or at least the same level as his/her parent if both child and the parent are in the top category of educational level).

Yet, India’s progress was overshadowed by its peers. Moreover, if a child’s parents were in the bottom half in terms of educational attainment, then the chances of the child rising to the top quartile in educational attainment was the lowest in India.

No wonder then that occupational mobility is also extremely low in India. Data from IHDS shows that there is a one in three chance that a son born to a father who was either a farmer or an agricultural labourer or a construction worker moves out of these three occupations.

The data shows that 38% of sons of white-collar workers end up in white-collar jobs.

In contrast, only 3% of sons of farmers end up in white-collar jobs. And there has not been much progress over the past few decades, as a previous Plain Facts column had pointed out.

Even though there has been some progress in educational mobility across caste groups, with lower caste groups rising up the educational ladder faster, this has not translated into gains in better work or in incomes, research shows.

The writing on the wall is clear. Unless India is able to create educational and occupational opportunities for all, the discontent among the less privileged sections of society will only grow.

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