Measuring Equality of Opportunity in Early Childhood: A methodological proposal using Demographic and Health Surveys

By: Lykke E. Andersen, Augustus Griffin, Justus J. Krause &  Gabriel Orduña Montekio

La Paz, October 2017


There is conceptually a big difference between inequality of opportunity and inequality of outcomes, and the policies needed to address the two different kinds of inequality are also very different. However, it is difficult to measure inequality of opportunity. This paper proposes a new measure of equality of opportunity, based on the importance of family background variables for nutritional status in early childhood. We applied the proposed methodology to 166 Demographic and Health Surveys, from 60 different countries, carried out between 1991 and 2015. What stands out most strongly from these estimations is the low level of equality of opportunity in Latin America compared to the rest of the world. Family background is much more important for children’s nutritional status in this region than in the rest of the world. In contrast, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa were found to have surprisingly high equality of opportunity, suggesting that in this region other factors than family background determine nutritional outcomes. The paper also explores relations between equality of opportunity and key development variables, as well as changes over time.

Keywords: Equality of opportunity, early childhood development, social mobility, nutritional mobility, Demographic and Health Surveys.

JEL classification codes: I14, I15.

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