Markus Klein
Trends in the association between educational attainment and class destinations in West Germany: Looking inside the service class

Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 2011: 29, issue 4, p. 427-444

The paper investigates long-term trends in the association between educational attainment and class destinations in Germany. Most recent evidence for several European countries reveals a downward effect of education on social class. To test changes in the association in Germany I use the 1976–2007 waves of the German Microcensus (GMC), which is a nationally representative, repeated cross-sectional survey. For Germany, log-linear models indicate that the relationship between education and class destinations remains rather constant for both sexes. I also find that returns to higher education in access to service class positions do not consistently decline either. Only university graduates’ relative access chances slightly decreased in comparison to Abitur-holders from the 1980s to the 1990s. In order to consider compositional changes in the service class in more detail, I further disaggregate the service class into three types of employment: administrative/managerial positions, professional experts and professional positions in the social services. In fact, I find that access to administrative and managerial positions is less dependent on education than access to the professions. While professional positions in the social services become less stratified by education over time, it is compensated by a reverse development for professional experts. As substantially more employees work in administrative and managerial jobs since the 1970s, the slight reduction in university returns can indeed be attributed to a compositional effect. In spite of these qualitative and quantitative changes, the strong impact of education on access to the service class does not become blurred. The paper concludes that the persistent institutional framework in Germany does not lead to a decline in the overall association between educational attainment and class destinations.