The relative disparities in education decreased with respect to the distribution of income, within the framework of an improvement in educational attainment. Socioeconomic gaps in access to basic services were also reduced, although lower-income households in rural areas in some countries maintain significant levels of deprivation. Increased access to new technologies for low-income groups, but this increase has been less than higher-income households, especially in access to the Internet. However, in the diffusion of mobile telephony, greater levels of equity are exhibited, which has made it possible to reduce the connectivity problems of low-income populations and those living in rural areas.
The usual way to describe and analyze inequality is through the measurement of the income distribution of the population. The differences in average income between the groups located at both ends of the distribution also extend to other dimensions, such as education, paid work, basic goods and services and new technologies. The purpose of this section is to describe and compare the situation of the different groups of the income distribution in: i) levels of educational attainment, particularly in secondary and post-secondary education; ii) access to basic services (water, sanitation and electricity) and the quality of housing, and iii) access to new information and communication technologies. These dimensions have been used recurrently in different measurements of basic needs and multidimensional poverty, as well as to select the Sustainable Development Goals and their goals. In these comparisons, the differences associated with two of the dimensions that make up the social inequality matrix in Latin America are also taken into account: gender and area of residence. Regarding the educational field, the analysis covers the period between 1997 and 2013. This period was selected in order to have an overview of the most comprehensive trends in inequality. The period includes the 2001-2002 and 2008-2009 crises and the economic boom that took place between 2003 and 2008. In terms of basic services and new technologies, shorter reference periods were taken, which was mainly due to the limitations of the surveys in terms of availability and quality of the information.
The increase in educational levels of the population, especially among the most vulnerable groups, is essential but not sufficient to achieve greater equality. On the one hand, because it improves the chances of accessing quality employment and better salaries, contributing to social mobility and the breakdown of the intergenerational transmission of inequality and poverty. On the other hand, because it allows the population to be in better conditions to participate in democratic processes and exercise their citizen rights. The progress of the region in terms of schooling levels is appreciable: in 2013, 92% of the population aged 15 to 19 had completed primary education (Trucco, 2014); in secondary education, the figure had risen from 37% in 1997 to 58% in 2013, considering young people of the same age. However, further progress is needed to close the wide educational gaps by income level, particularly in secondary and post-secondary education. In effect, 80% of young people aged 20 to 24 from the richest quintile had completed secondary school in 2013, while in the poorest quintile this rate only reached 34%. That is, the conclusion of the secondary in the lowest income quintile was equivalent to less than half (42%) of that observed in the highest income quintile.
The reduction of the gaps in terms of years of study should not ignore the relevance to the current policy agenda of the asymmetries in educational quality related to the socioeconomic situation. However, this aspect requires a deeper discussion and the use of other instruments that go beyond what can be provided by the household surveys on which this analysis is based. Between 1997 and 2013, the secondary school completion was increased in all income quintiles. However, between 1997 and 2013, it reduced the secondary school completion gap between the extreme quintiles of the distribution: while in 1997 the completion of the secondary in the lowest income quintile was equivalent to 22% of that observed in the quintile of higher revenues, in 2013 this value reached 42%. This decrease in the gap is due to the fact that the rate of relative increase in the completion of secondary school was 9% per year in quintile I and 1.7% per year in quintile V. In the same line, it also had There is a reduction in the completion gaps between the richest quintile and the quintiles II and III. In any case, even after the aforementioned improvement, the completion rate of secondary education in the first quintile is just over one third of the total population considered.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the gaps continue to be quite significant, and there is also considerable heterogeneity among countries, both in terms of the magnitude of the gaps and in what refers to their evolution over time. At the same time, the reduction of educational disparities associated with gender should be highlighted, which contrasts with the trends seen in labor market indicators.