Income Inequality in Colombia: Reassessing the Effects of Public Spending and Education Provision

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Bilver Adrian Astorquiza Bustos
Daniel Mejía Arango


Income inequality in Colombia showed an average reduction of 9.26 % in the period 2008-2018. However, the Gini coefficient places Colombia as the second most unequal country in Latin America, with public spending on education as a percentage of GDP at 4.5 % (twelfth position), rising unemployment rates and modest secondary education provision. It is imperative to reflect on how resources are distributed and about mechanisms for reducing inequality. We test the hypothesis that spending on education reduces inequality, although not in an efficient way, while increasing provision of education generates differential effects. We estimate a panel data model that corrects for endogeneity for twenty-three departments of Colombia and Bogotá D.C. The results suggest that education spending reduces inequality but is inelastic (β= -0.05) and is associated with unproductive spending. In terms of education provision, early years education increases inequality, the secondary reduces inequality, while higher education is almost perfectly inelastic (β= -0.004). The strategy for reducing inequality is not a general increase in public spending, but targeted increases and the strengthening of mechanisms for improving provision of education.

Cómo citar
Astorquiza Bustos, B. A., & Mejía Arango, D. (2021). Income Inequality in Colombia: Reassessing the Effects of Public Spending and Education Provision. Semestre Económico, 24(56), 229–252.

Detalles del artículo


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Biografía del autor/a

Bilver Adrian Astorquiza Bustos, Universidad de Manizales

Economist, Master in Applied Economics, Universidad del Valle. PhD (c) in Economics, Universidad Eafit. Lecturer and Researcher in the Faculty of Accounting, Economics and Administrative Sciences, Universidad de Manizales. Address: Cra. 9a # 19-03, Manizales, Caldas. Email: Orcid:

Daniel Mejía Arango, Universidad EAFIT

Economist. Universidad Eafit. Address: Cra. 49 # sur 5 -03, Medellín Colombia. Email: Orcid: