Marita Jacob, Nicole Tieben
Social Selectivity of Track Mobility in Secondary Schools. A Comparison of Intra-secondary Transitions in Germany and the Netherlands

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Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 105
ISSN: 1437-8574

Previous research on track mobility based on rational choice theory on educational decisions has found that in particular children from higher social classes use the opportunities to upgrade in educational tracks for reasons of status maintenance, whereas children from lower classes are more likely to downgrade (e.g. for Germany: Hillmert/Jacob 2005).
However, these studies were limited to one country. But certain institutional variations in the costs or risks of different alternatives and of track mobility may have an influence on family background effects. Therefore we extend existing research by comparing two countries, Germany and the Netherlands, which both offer a tracked educational system, but differ in the shape and structure of the different tracks. For example, the systems offer a different array of educational tracks and alternatives to choose and to change, and they differ with regard to the extent of spatial and institutional cooperation of different schools. Both countries also established educational reforms in the late sixties, with the aim to increase track mobility between tracks. These reforms were more far-reaching in the Netherlands than in Germany, therefore we expect changes in social selectivity over time and differences between the two countries.
In our empirical analyses using data from the Family Survey Dutch Population and the German Life History Study we find that changing to a higher track, either before or after obtaining a first graduation, is more likely for students who face the threat of status demotion in both countries, whereas changing to a lower track is independent of status maintenance motives. In general, intra secondary transitions occur less often in the Netherlands than in Germany and are less motivated by status maintenance. Educational legislation reduces the effects of relative education of the parents only on upward mobility in Germany and only on downward mobility in the Netherlands.