Horizontal Inequalities in Children’s Educational Outcomes in Ethiopia


This paper examines the relationship between children’s educational outcomes and ethnic group status in Ethiopia. It builds on the main theories of education in developing countries – human capital theory and educational opportunity theory – and further draws on the theory of horizontal inequality as a lens for examining educational inequality. Using longitudinal data from the Young Lives study, information collected from 1,000 older cohort children who were followed up at ages 8, 12 and 15 were analysed to investigate the effects of ethnicity controlling for individual, home, community and school characteristics.

The findings showed that while school enrolment appears to have improved in the study sites, with most of the children enrolled in school at age 15, slow grade progression and low achievement remain challenges, particularly for certain minority ethnic groups. We further demonstrate significant regional in intra-regional differences, as well as differences between the centre (Addis Ababa) and the periphery. As regards the factors that predict schooling outcomes, we find that disparities in income level and poverty status cannot fully explain the variation in educational outcomes between groups. Contextual factors at the individual level, particularly schooling history, and school level variables also play a significant role.

The paper concludes by arguing that research and policy that emphasizes educational access, or enrolment, may understate how children differently experience schooling and may downplay the role of education in compensating for or reproducing inequalities. The paper further suggests that employing a group-based approach to inequality analysis, as opposed to an individual measure, can help to better understand the mechanisms through which inequalities take shape and may illuminate on role of schooling in aggravating or mitigating against individuatl and family level disadvantage.


Tesfay, N.K. Horizontal Inequalities in Children’s Educational Outcomes in Ethiopia. (2012) 126 pp.

Horizontal Inequalities in Children’s Educational Outcomes in Ethiopia

Published 1 January 2012