Educational attainment of the middle sectors
Where do the middle sectors currently stand in terms of educational attainment? Table 3.1 presents years of education for different cohorts of the population using our 50-150 definition of middle sectors.11
Table 3.1. Years of education by age and income group in Latin America
On average across countries members of the middle sectors have 8.3 years of education, 3.7 years less than the affluent and 2.2 years more than the disadvantaged. In all countries the middle sectors are less educated than the affluent and better educated than the disadvantaged.12 In general terms, the disadvantaged in Latin America have primary education; the middle sectors some secondary education, and the affluent completed secondary education. The middle sectors, from this point of view, are certainly in the middle – but in most countries in the region they are closer to the disadvantaged than the affluent.
Of course, the averages mask large differences. Overall educational attainment is higher in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and Ecuador. The disadvantaged in these countries typically finish primary education (and may have some secondary education) while in the other five countries outcomes are much lower.
In all countries, there is convergence over time in educational attainment. This trend of extensions to education particularly favouring the disadvantaged has also been documented elsewhere in the world.13 In Latin America, it is the result of the expansion of coverage across age groups generally having been faster within the disadvantaged than the middle sectors, and within the middle sectors than the affluent. Consequently, for many countries even the disadvantaged younger cohorts have more years of education than affluent 61- to 65-year olds. The exceptions are Colombia and Argentina, where the educational attainment of the middle sectors increased at the same pace as the disadvantaged.