Alejandro Sevilla


Disentangling Inequality of Educational Opportunities: The transition to higher education in Chile

Sept 2013 – Sept 2016




PhD Summary

Over the last decades, Chile has experienced sustained expansion in its educational system. This expansion was the result of a major private participation of schools and higher education institutions, since 1980s educational reforms. In 2011, however, a massive number of school and university students in Chile took to the streets to protest against the marketisation of the educational system. In particular, the access to higher education has constituted an important social selection mechanism. Students from disadvantaged social backgrounds are still behind their peers from advantaged backgrounds in continuing at this level.

This research investigates to what extent educational inequalities in Chile are determined by the effect of social background on academic performance and educational decisions, using Boudon’s primary and secondary effects decomposition as the point of departure. I analyse data from a cohort of pupils who enrolled in first grade of compulsory education in 2002, and made the transition to higher education one year after graduating in 2013, at age 17 or 18. I build on existing methodological advances, deriving primary and secondary effects within a mediation-modelling framework. Initial findings exhibit a social background and a performance gradient in the proportion of students enrolled in higher education institutions.  However, the effect of social background tends to be larger in determining students’ chances to continue further in the educational system. The literature accounts for other factors influencing educational inequalities such as the stratification of the educational system and qualitative differences in higher education institutions. These factors are also analysed in separated research papers.


Prior to joining the Cathie Marsh Centre for Social Research (CMIST), I worked as a research assistant for four years at the Centre for Advanced Research in Education (CIAE) from the University of Chile. My research expertise includes educational policy analysis on national and international student assessments and schoolteacher’s labour conditions. I graduated from the University of San Simón in Bolivia with a degree in Economics in 2004. I gained a PG Diploma in Economics from the University of Chile in 2007. In 2010, I was awarded a CONICYT-BECAS CHILE 1+3 studentship.

After completing the MSc in Social Research Methods and Statistics at The Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research (CCSR), I started my PhD in Social Statistics in 2013. My research interests lie in social stratification and social inequality, to show from the evidence their consequences in our society’s well-being.

Contact Details

Office: G45, Humanities Bridgeford Street


Twitter: @alejsev