Budapest Working Papers on the Labour Market BWP - 2012/5
This study quantifies the achievement gap between Roma and non-Roma students in Hungary and assesses the potential causes of the gap. According to reading and mathematics test scores measured in eighth grade, the gap is substantial. Its magnitude is similar to the gap between African American and White students in the early 1980's. The gap between Roma and non-Roma students is almost entirely explained by social differences in income, wealth and parental education, and ethnic factors do not play a significant role. Besides differences in health, social disadvantages of Roma students lead to lower skills through two major mechanisms. Their home environment is less favorable for their cognitive development, and their schools are characterized by lower quality educational environment. Ethnic differences in home environment are, again, explained by social differences, and ethnicity seems to play no additional role. On the other hand, while access to higher quality schools is strongly related to social differences, Roma students seem to face additional disadvantages. The results suggest that besides policies that aim at alleviating poverty, well designed interventions influencing the transmission mechanisms can also improve the skill development of Roma and other disadvantaged children.