Abstract It is estimated that only approximately 20 percent of adult European Roma have attained higher than primary education. Scholars have identified different potential causes of the unfavourable school outcomes achieved by Roma students. Cultural differences between the (traditional) way of life in Roma families and the values professed by the mainstream society are often blamed for high dropout rates and the low educational attainment of Roma. Yet there is also a group of researchers who disagree with this, and suggest that it is more to do with economic and other differences. Our empirical study is based on a large representative sample of UNDP/WB/EC Regional Roma Survey conducted in twelve European countries. We show that, on average, Roma respondents (in comparison to non-Roma) express remarkably lower levels of educational aspirations for children. However, these differences diminish considerably when controlling for common individual and household characteristics, and again when including culture proxies. Consequently, our study contributes to questioning one of the negative stereotypes about the distinctiveness of Roma and their culture in relation to education.