Inequality, Marketization, and the Left: Schools Policy in England and Sweden
29 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2015 Last revised: 15 Apr 2015
Date Written: 2015
I argue that the marketization of schools policy has a tendency to produce twin effects: an increase in educational inequality and an increase in general satisfaction with the schooling system. However, I claim that the effect on educational inequality is very much stronger where prevailing societal inequality is higher. The result is that cross-party political agreement on the desirability of such reforms is much more likely where societal inequality is lower (as the inequality effects are also lower). Counterintuitively, then, countries that are more egalitarian — and so typically thought of as being more left-wing — will have a higher likelihood of adopting marketization than more unequal countries. I draw evidence from a paired comparison of English and Swedish schools policies from the 1980s to the present. Both the policy history and elite interviews lend considerable support for the theory in terms of both outcomes and mechanisms.
Keywords: education, inequality, political economy, comparative politics, marketisation
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