It deepens like a coastal shelf - educational mobility and social capital in Germany

Fabian Stephany, University of Cambridge and Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

Inequality of opportunity, often reflected by social immobility, is a crucial threat to the stability of a society. It seriously undermines the egalitarian premise and fosters political radicalisation based on systematic reproduction of disadvantage. This work argues that social capital transmission plays an important role for the chances of social success in western societies. For the example of Germany, it is reasoned that weak social capital environments deepen existing disadvantages. Even though, tertiary education is easily accessible and affordable, Germany has one of the lowest levels of educational mobility among the industrialized countries of the world. On the one hand, the 'German exceptionalism' can be linked to the strong vocational sector, which constitutes a sound alternative to a university education, in particular for students from lower educated households. Still, even at an earlier stage, at entry to the Gymnasium, Germany's upper secondary school, a strong social cleavage becomes apparent. Problems appear to be systematic, since the decision about entry into higher secondary education is made at early age and is left, in most cases, with the parents, who rely on their own educational trajectory. Outside of the school environment, differences in social capital inheritance explain educational immobility. With the use of the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) survey from 1984 to 2014, various analyses about the relation between social capital and educational success are performed. Social capacities, which are helpful for educational and social success, clearly depend on the educational family background. For various social capital indicators, a logistic two-stage least-square model shows how social capacities are handed down from one generation to the other and ultimately determine educational attainment. Alternative forms of schooling, such as comprehensive and all-day education, as well as a delay of the decision on entry into higher education, could help to improve unequal social capital inheritance.

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Presented in Poster Session 3