Picking winners: An empirical analysis of the determinants of educational outcomes in India

Christian K. Darko, Nicholas Vasilakos

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We use data from the Young Lives longitudinal survey to analyse the effect of socioeconomic conditions and gender on the educational performance of young children in India. In particular, we use data for standardised scores on two cognitive tests: the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) and a maths test. Our results show that there are significant gender differences in the way that household wealth affects the educational performance of children. Specifically, boys born into wealthier households perform significantly better in maths than those from worse‐off economic backgrounds. The effect of wealth on the PPVT is stronger for girls than it is for boys. The results are robust across a range of specifications. The effect of household wealth on performance differed between the genders, even when we focused our analysis on the bottom 10% and top 10% of the performance distribution. One possible explanation for these differences is parental aspirations. We tested this hypothesis and found that boys from wealthier households with higher parental educational aspirations are positively and significantly associated with higher maths scores. Further analysis showed that the moderating role of parents’ educational aspirations was more pronounced at the top of the test score distribution, an indication that more able children are associated with wealthier and more ambitious parents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1445-1467
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number6
Early online date10 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • India
  • educational outcomes
  • gender
  • longitudinal study
  • parental expectations

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