P. Dobrescu, F. Durach, L. Radu

National University for Political Studies and Public Administration (ROMANIA)
Inequality and development are two interconnected topics that have long preoccupied. In recent years, the different views on inequality and its evolution in the post-crisis period emerged. The first was introduced by T. Piketty (2014), who showed that in times of reduced rate of economic growth, wealth accumulates in favour of the capital instead of labour, thus increasing inequality. His work echoed beyond economics, providing insights for all scholars in the field of social sciences. Other views on inequality focused on differences between nations (Milanovic, 2016), by drawing attention to growing gaps between nations that pose a threat to international stability. Another line of study contrasts objective inequality to its subjective perceptions (see Graham, 2017). There are cases in which factual inequality is high, but the existence of social mobility policies based on personal merit leads to acceptance and tolerance towards inequality. The most obvious example is “the American dream”, with all the hope it encompasses. However, during the last decade, tolerance to inequality decreased, leading to a crisis of trust.
In most cases, scholarly attention has been given to economic factors driving development an inequality. However, social factors, such as education, have seldom been regarded as being the key to long-term growth (see Schultz, 1961; Becker, 1962), despite international organisations having constantly invested into raising governments’ awareness that well-trained human capital as one of the pillars of development. For example, the South Korean success has been deeply shaped by education, which has been approached as a generator of long-term competitive advantages. We pose that between education, development, and inequality there are intrinsic links that require a very careful and organized exploration. Thus, by turning to the most influential literature in the field, we analyse the linkages between development, inequality, and education. The paper investigates through quantitative methods the different faces of inequality within Romania, with an emphasis on regional disparities in what concerns education. Our paper is premised on the idea that inequality in education triggers economic inequality and stagnation or even underdevelopment. By means of secondary data analysis consisting mainly (but not exclusively) in Eurostat statistics, we aim to provide an overview of the inequality and development in Romania, as compared to EU average and its peers in Central and Eastern Europe. Furthermore, we contrast hard data to the subjective views of the citizens on this topic, by means of a nation-wide public opinion survey focusing on both inequality and education. Our analysis will go beyond economics, by exploring broader societal issues specific for Romania in its pursuit of development.