Cumulation or compensation? Returns to adult education and social inequalities in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia

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Series Details Vol.20, No.1, February 2018, p65-88
Publication Date February 2018
ISSN 1461-6696
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Adult education may mitigate social inequalities during the life course by allowing educationally disadvantaged groups to catch up to their advantaged peers and thereby improve their career prospects. To challenge this idea, I analyze returns to adult education and implications for social inequality in transition economies, particularly in Russia.

The results, based on longitudinal data from the Russian Education and Employment Survey, show that adult education either pays off equally for all groups or has a greater benefit for those who already occupy more advantageous positions. Accordingly, adult education does not facilitate mobility among those who need it most to improve their labour market prospects and opportunities.

Moreover, in many cases, those who are least advantaged (e.g. lower educated, unskilled) appear to be effectively excluded from any positive payoffs of adult education due to their lower participation. Hence, despite the promise of adult education to lower social inequality, initial social inequalities are not offset but are often amplified through adult education in Russia.

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