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Educational mobility still eludes rural India

A family’s occupation can determine their investment in their child’s education a lot more in rural India than in rural China, shows a new study

Education is believed to be a long-term panacea for all troubles of developing countries. But getting one is still a matter of privilege in many parts of the world. New research shows that parents’ occupations can determine their children’s education a lot more in rural India than in rural China.

The decision of investing in a child’s education in rural India depends on whether the household is in an agricultural or non-agricultural occupation, says a World Bank working paper by M. Shahe Emran of Columbia University and others.

The study compares the educational attainment of children in rural India and China using 2010 data from the China Family Panel Studies and the 1999 Rural Economic and Demographic Survey for India. It tests whether a parent's education translates into a decision to invest in children’s education.

The authors find that educational mobility—or the degree to which the younger lot diverges away from their parents’ generation—is lower in rural India than China even if parents have similar educational backgrounds. Children from non-farm households tend to see higher educational mobility than farm households in both countries.

Economic forces explain the difference. Higher income and social capital earned from non-farm jobs makes it easier to invest in children’s education, say the authors.

However, the study also shows that India had more inequality in education levels of children from farm and non-farm households. In India, parents’ education as well as jobs worked in tandem in determining how well the child would study.

A major reason, the authors say, is that India’s education system is dominated by private players unlike China’s. Expensive private education weighs in the decision of investing in child’s education, and tends to be difficult to afford for agricultural households.

Also read: Occupational Dualism and Intergenerational Educational Mobility in the Rural Economy : Evidence from China and India

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