Economic Downturns and Schooling Inequality, Cameroon, 1987-95

by Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, Julie DaVanzo


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Policy makers often worry that economic crises aggravate schooling inequalities, but the longitudinal data to monitor these inequalities are typically lacking. This paper uses the schooling histories of 2,249 pupils to investigate how the economic downturn in Cameroon in the period of 1987-95 affected the schooling inequalities associated with sex of pupil, residence, the family's socio-economic status, and family size. The authors first assess overall patterns and find these inequalities to depend on grade and other vulnerability factors. For instance, girls are disadvantaged in comparison with boys only in rural families and within primary and junior secondary school. The authors then examine historical changes in schooling inequalities, distinguishing between long-term trends and net changes during crisis years. The authors find that the inequalities associated with sex of pupil and family size have increased. Results underscore the importance of economic conditions in sustaining progress in closing gaps in education between the sexes. The authors also suggest that fertility and family size are of growing significance for schooling in African settings.

Originally published in: Population Studies, v. 57, no. 2, 2003, pp. 183-197.

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