Tobias Roth, Manuel Siegert
Does the Selectivity of an Educational System Affect Social Inequality in Educational Attainment? Empirical Findings for the Transition from Primary to Secondary Level in Germany

European Sociological Review, 2016: 32, Heft 6, S. 779 - 791
ISSN: 0266-7215 (print); 1468-2672 (online)

Previous research has shown that educational transitions are decisive for the explanation of social educational inequalities. One key factor for social-class-specific transitions at crucial branching points in the educational system is the difference in educational decisions of higher and lower social classes even at the same level of performance. Therefore, it is often assumed that an institutional setting in which families do not have a free choice, but where transitions are determined by binding teacher recommendations that are based on educational performance, is one possibility to reduce social inequality in educational opportunity. To test the effectiveness of such an institutional arrangement, we use Germany as a strategic test case. We investigate differences in social inequality in educational attainment between German federal states with differing transition rules and examine two changes in the transition regulations that have taken place in one federal state within the past 10 years. Our results indicate that the binding nature of the transition recommendation given by primary schools for the different secondary school types does not substantially alter the effect of social background on the probability of attending the higher secondary school track in secondary level I.