The effect of transnational educational mobility on occupational status. Do individuals from less advantaged backgrounds profit more?

Stine Waibel, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Heiko Rüger, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)

Transnational educational mobility – extended stays abroad during secondary or tertiary education – has increased in recent decades, making it a key component of young people’s learning experience. Governments and supranational and international organizations share a common commitment to enhancing transnational educational mobility. Simultaneously, demand for a type of mobility that is expected to foster individual growth in terms of human, social, and intercultural capital is constantly growing. Furthermore, according to employer surveys, international experience appears to improve the chances of recruitment among equally qualified job applicants. Despite a remarkable proliferation of educational mobility and its broad-based support, the individual-level consequences of educational mobility are not yet well understood. It has been repeatedly shown that internationally mobile young people are an advantaged group with respect to their parents’ education and financial resources. However, evidence on the effects of educational mobility on future careers is mixed. A central question that remains is also, whether potential returns from educational mobility may actually be higher for lower status groups than for high status groups, as a small number of studies have argued. Using the example of Germany, this paper aims to elaborate this line of research and to evaluate the effect of educational mobility on occupational status for individuals from different family backgrounds. We use a representative data set of the German population, “Working and Learning in a Changing World” (ALWA), that contains information on 10.177 life histories, designed to assess the consequences of education for the life course. We find that, overall, transnational educational mobility is associated with a slightly higher occupational status when accounting for various confounding variables. However, our results also show that individuals not having higher educated parents profit more from educational mobility. The findings are discussed in light of educational systems’ potential to correct for social inequalities.

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Presented in Session 10: Life course and education