Students from urban households led by women more likely to enroll in higher education: Study

NEW DELHI: Teasing apart the factors influencing the decision to enroll in higher education, a researcher at the National University for Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) has discovered that scheduled caste school graduates are more likely to join than even general category ones.

The paper by Nivedita Sarkar has also discovered that students from urban households that are led by women stand a better chance (by 6%) and that “one unit (Re.1) increase in monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE)” “increases the chance of enrolment in higher education by 12.7%.”

For her paper, Participation in Higher Education in India: Role of Household Characteristic and Labour Market Signal, Sarkar used data from the 64th round of the National Sample Survey conducted over 2007-08. Her database for the analysis consists of over 1.81 crore individuals (weighted values) of whom 62.9% were either enrolled or had higher education degree and 37.1% were not enrolled in any kind of higher education despite being eligible. She used data pertaining to the age group of 18–23 years and considered only those who had completed higher secondary education.

She feels the last is responsible for her rather startling finding about SC students. “One can argue that affirmative action in the form of caste-based reservation is actually working well for schedule caste population at all India level,” says the paper but Sarkar suspects that “the disparity occurs at the school level” and a dataset of high-school graduates doesn’t reflect that. This implies, she writes, “only the students from well-off families (among the SCs) are completing higher secondary education and the benefits of reservation [are] reaped by the creamy layer.”

These findings were shared at a conference organized by the Comparative Education Society of India (CESI).

Sarkar investigated the role of gender and family income in decision-making as well and discovered they vary widely across regions and income levels. In urban areas, having a female heading the household improves the chance of participation of both genders but in rural areas, interestingly, it’s the opposite for males. Boys from a woman-led rural household are 1.8% less likely to go to college. Sarkar writes that rural families in general are “more inclined to employ their male children in farm-based activities” and those headed by women, even more so, as they “are more at the risk of financial vulnerability.”

Income is a big influence but an increase doesn’t always translate into increased chances of enrollment in higher education. A rupee’s increase in MPCE increases chance of enrolment by 13.4% for girls and 12.2% for boys “at all India level.” “While economic status play[s] a significant role in determining the participation in higher education for the urban students, it hardly plays any role in rural area[s],” finds Sarkar, “For rural males, superior economic status plays a negative role (0.06% lower) in determining one’s enrolment in higher education. This may be due to the reason that the economically well-off households do not feel the importance of higher education for their male children, rather try to engage them in the family’s farm-based activities or other familial occupation.” In the case of urban males, the probability improves by 8.8% with a unit’s increase in MPCE.

Sarkar has also looked at how increase in income affects the probability of participation across income brackets. Creating five MPCE groups, she found that for those in the top income quintile (80-100%) a Re.1 increase in MPCE results in the probability of enrollment going up by 51.5%. But for the poorest 20% in the villages, such an increase will lower the probability by “almost 85%.” “One of the …reasons may be that, among the poorest rural households higher education is not considered as an option to increase their economic condition,” Sarkar concludes.

Key Factors:

*SC students have greater chances of participating in higher education than even general category ones implying that only the wealthy among the SCs are finishing school

*In urban areas, an eligible candidate has 6% higher probability of getting enrolled if household head is a woman

*Boys in rural areas less likely to join higher education if the household head is a woman; probability reduces by 1.8%

*Girls have 8% lower chances of joining than boys in rural areas; in urban areas, it’s 2.4% less

*An additional member in an urban family decreases the chance of participation by 2.2% for girls and 1.3% for boys. In rural areas, it reduces by 1.1% (girls) and 0.06% (boys)

*Across India, a single unit’s increase in monthly per capita expenditure increases the chance of enrolment by 13.4% for girls, 12.2% for boys and 12.7% overall

*For boys, better economic status plays negative role in determining enrollment (it decreases by 0.06%) in rural areas; in urban areas, a unit’s increase raises probability of enrollment by 8.8%


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