Reinhard Pollak, Walter Müller
Education as an Equalizing Force: How Have Declining Educational Inequality and Educational Expansion Contributed to More Social Fluidity in Germany?

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Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 171
47 S.
ISSN: 1437-8574

Education is often portrayed as the big sorting machine for life chances in modern societies. In this paper, we examine the role of education in social mobility among men and women in Germany during the 20th century. We analyse two pathways of how a person’s social class origin affects her or his own class position in society: First, an education-mediated path, where a per-son’s social origin influences her or his educational attainment, which in turn influences the social class position she or he attains in adult life. Second, a path that comprises all the mechanisms not related to formal education by which social origins influence an adult’s social class position. Using data from various large-scale survey programmes (ALLBUS, SOEP, NEPS), we discuss and analyse how social mobility, educational inequality, returns to education and non-educational pathways develop over time. With log-linear modeling and decomposition methods, we find out that about two thirds of the total as-sociation between social origin and own social class position can be attributed to the education-mediated path. In a simulation study, we show that trends in social mobility are mainly associated with a decline in educational inequality and with an enormous educational expansion for men and women in the 20th century.