What Can States Do to Reduce the Poverty Gradient in Education? Evidence from a Series of Studies

Stephen Gorard
NESET Expert Briefing, 2013

This expert brief summarises the findings of a series of international studies examining the reasons for the existence of a “poverty gradient” in education and the steps to be taken to reduce it. The poverty gradient is a metaphor used by policymakers and researchers to describe the gap in educational achievement between the poorest members of a society and the rest. All states have such a gap, although the magnitude of the difference may vary from region to region and over time.

The most direct way to tackle the poverty gradient is to reduce or eliminate poverty. In addition, it is also possible to address the educational component. We can work to reduce the existing poverty level, and we can work within the existing poverty level to reduce the gap in educational achievement, but the two together are likely to be a more powerful approach. Therefore, nothing in the following should be interpreted to mean that large disparities in income should be accepted.

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