quick and dirty: economic inequality and test scores

Is there a relationship between a country’s performance on international education benchmarks like the PISA tests and that country’s economic inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient?

Math
Reading
Science

Sure looks like it! Those are some healthy correlations there. (Lower Gini = lower inequality.) The math plot in particular is striking. I’m sure there’s noise here and if I get scolded by somebody I’ll update the post.

Of course, this invites the classic question about the arrow of causation in education: are these societies more equal because they have better education? Or are their education results better because their economies are more equal? You can probably guess what I think.

Plots by me. Data: PISA, Gini.

Update: But take care because, as Scott Alexander points out to me, measures of inequality are hard on correlational study, so don’t take this too seriously. I’m gonna expand the scope of the analysis and see what we can see, but like I said – quick and dirty, so don’t hold me to it!