Is School Funding Unequal in Latin America?: A Cross-country Analysis
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Public spending on education has increased significantly in Latin America over the last decades. However, less is known whether increased spending has been translated into a more equitable distribution of resources within countries in the region. This study addresses this gap by measuring the inequality in per-pupil spending between regions with different levels of socioeconomic status (SES) within five Latin American countries: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Results show that Brazil, a federal country, has the widest socioeconomic funding gap due to large inequalities in local revenues between high and low SES regions. However, the country's funding gap has narrowed over time. School funding in Colombia has become more regressive over time, but its gap is half the size of the one in Brazil. The distribution of school funding in Peru has changed over time from being regressive-benefiting the richest regions-to being progressive-benefiting the poorest regions. Education spending in Chile and in Ecuador are, on the other hand, consistently progressive. However, while the progressiveness of funding in Ecuador is driven by transfers targeted at disadvantaged rural areas, the funding formulas in Chile addresses socioeconomic inequalities beyond the rural-urban gap.