Academic journal article Journal of Research in Educational Sciences

Getting the Bias Wrong: Educational Opportunities for Boys and Girls in Mexico

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Educational Sciences

Getting the Bias Wrong: Educational Opportunities for Boys and Girls in Mexico

Article excerpt

Abstract:

The First National Survey on Discrimination in Mexico, conducted in 2004, reported that 15 out of every 100 parents think they should not invest in their daughter's education because they will ultimately get married and it will be a waste of money. Using data from the Mexican Income-Expenditure Survey waves of 1992, 1998 and 2004, we did not find enough statistical evidence to support the idea that families provide less education to their 15 to 18 years old daughters. In fact, contrary to common belief, our results suggest the existence of a small pro-girl discrimination in education access at secondary school.

Keywords: Gender; education; discrimination; children; Mexico.

1. Introduction

The intra-household allocation of resources has become one of the most important issues in human capital research. Several studies, analyzing developing countries, provide evidence that not only are resources not allocated randomly within households, but they are also unequally distributed within the family1.

Different theories and models have been developed in order to explain household allocation of resources. In general, there are two microeconomic theories: unitary and collective household models. The unitary model was developed by Becker (1965, 1981); in this model, the family is conceived as a single decision maker, which regards child human capital as an investment decision. The models that follow Becker's approach assume the allocation is determined in one of the three following ways:

* parents allocate resources based on the differential labor market returns to boys and girls (Rosenzweig and Schultz, 1982);

* parents allocate resources according to their own utility, which depends on the well being of their children (Behrman et al., 1982 and Behrman, 1988);

* parents allocate resources based on the productivity of each member (Pitt et al., 1990). On the other hand, the collective models allow for family members to have different utility functions, hence, resources are allocated according to the relative bargaining power of the family members2. Empirical studies have found that the wife's bargaining power increases the children's likelihood of being enrolled in school (Knight and Song, 2000), reduces the likelihood of dropping out of elementary school (Brown and Park, 2002) and increases the amount of money spent on the children's education (Song, 2008)3. The unequal distribution of goods within a family usually takes the form of a gender bias. In fact, there is a general perception of discrimination against female members. In many developing countries, girls lag markedly behind boys in schooling. However, although some empirical studies have found gender bias against girls in the form of lower human capital (education, nutrition and/or health), other studies have not4.

2. Background

The First National Survey on Discrimination in Mexico (Primera Encuesta Nacional sobre Discriminación en México), conducted by the Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL) in 2004, reported that 15 per cent of the respondents think they should not invest in their daughters' education because they will ultimately get married. Lopez (2004) and Parker and Pedemizi (2001) find evidence supporting the "assumed" gender discrimination against girls in education opportunities in Mexico.

Data suggest a quite different story. According to the Mexican Population Censuses of 1970, 1990 and 2000 and the Mexican Population Survey of 2005, elementary school enrollment does not differ by gender since 1990, and middle and high school enrollment does not differ since 2005 (Table 1). According to data from the Mexican Ministry of Public Education (SEP)5, there seems to be a persistent gender gap against boys in school completion since 1997 (Table 2). Aguayo-Téllez et al. (2007) do not find statistical evidence to support gender discrimination in education against girls or boys in Mexico.6

The existence of a gender bias in education opportunities is very relevant for Mexico. …

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