How Policy Feedback From Educational Inequalities Shapes Fairness Perceptions

About this Session


Thu. 07.04. 11:45



Speaker: Daniel McArthur, Co-Author: Jane Gingrich

Concerns about fairness play a crucial role in shaping public concern with inequalities. Education is an important domain in which debates about fairness take place. By sorting students into different paths, education policies shape the reproduction of inequality across generations. Differences in parental resources undermine equality of opportunity, and hence education systems where parental background plays a larger role in shaping child outcomes are less fair. However, despite a large literature on fairness in education, we know little about the views of the general public. To address this gap, we investigate the extent to which educational institutions and mobility outcomes feed back into the public’s fairness perceptions. We develop a theory of how individuals make judgments about the fairness of educational opportunities based on their underlying moral norms and the institutions they are exposed to. We identify three patterns of attitude formation that differ in the role played by individuals’ baseline norms. Our empirical analysis assesses these theories by investigating the relationship between educational mobility, institutions, and perceptions of fairness using data from the 2018 European Social Survey. We find that individuals perceive fairer educational opportunities when mobility is high. However, this association depends on individuals’ prior ideological beliefs, with a stronger association among conservative than leftist respondents.