Educational Attainment and the (Growing) Importance of Age Structure: Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians
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Jackson, N, Educational Attainment and the (Growing) Importance of Age Structure: Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians, Journal of Population Research, 25, (2) pp. 223-244. ISSN 1443-2447 (2008) [Refereed Article]
Australia's Indigenous population has a markedly younger age structure than its non-Indigenous counterpart. As a result, greater proportions of the Indigenous population are presently at school and approaching tertiary education age, meaning that any declines in gaps between the two populations in terms of educational attainment may be more apparent than real; a reflection of the differing age structures, rather than true improvement. This paper illustrates the argument across the period 1981-2006. It shows first that crude gaps in educational attainment between the two populations in fact increased across the period, for both pre-tertiary (Year 12) attendance and post-school qualifications, after first declining slightly between 1981 and 1991. Using a classic standardization technique it then illustrates how the differences in age structure conceal what would otherwise be greater or smaller gaps. Although most of the age effects are at present small, the findings indicate the increasing optimality of the Indigenous age structure for the gaining of qualifications, and make it imperative that these differences be explicitly acknowledged and built into all policy interventions. Similarly the findings indicate that any such interventions should be carefully monitored for their potential to negatively discriminate on the basis of age structure. © Springer Science+Business Media 2008.
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