Walter Müller, Dietmar Haun
Bildungsungleichheit im sozialen Wandel

Arbeitsbereich I; 07
ISSN: 0948-0072

Using data from several independent sources the contribution investigates the development of educational inequalities in Germany for men and women born in the period from 1910 to 1969. With the availability of data including more recent birth cohorts it now becomes possible to evaluate more adequately the consequences of educational expansion for the inequality structure in the educational system. In contrast to the widely held thesis of constant educational inequalities, the results indicate a remarkable decrease in the differences of educational attainment and participation between social classes, in particular if present day conditions are compared to those of the interwar and early post- world war II years. As demonstrated by the analysis of grade progression probabilities at different educational levels, the reduced social selectivity can mainly be attributed to a decreasing impact of social origin at the transition from lower secondary- to intermediate- or higher secondary education. As a consequence, however, we also observe decreasing inequalities at higher educational levels when children from different social origins attain higher secondary- and tertiary qualifications. Comparing different explanatory dimensions we find that the reduction of educational inequalities varies with respect to specific periods of time and to the family characteristics that affect educational participation. The contribution concludes with a discussion of specific hypotheses potentially explaining the observed results.