Explaining Social Inequalities at the Transition From Primary to Secondary Education: The Interplay of Strategic Knowledge and Institutional Setting

About this Session


Thu. 07.04. 16:00



Speaker: Melanie Olczyk, Co-Authors: Maximilian Bach, Annabell Daniel, Katharina Werner

The German school system is characterized by early tracking, a high level of differentiation, and high stratification, leading to different educational pathways. These pathways are associated not only with different access requirements and different probabilities of success and costs but also with different postsecondary education and career opportunities. In this context, knowledge about the educational system could be an important resource to strategically navigate the educational process. Since families from lower social strata have been shown to have limited information about the educational system, this potential knowledge gap could exacerbate social inequalities at the transition from primary to lower secondary school. We further hypothesize that differences in parents’ knowledge have a stronger impact if educational decisions are less constrained by the institutional context. We investigate the importance of knowledge about the educational system in contributing to social inequalities by leveraging differences between states in their transitional arrangements. We analyze data from Starting Cohort 2 of the National Educational Panel Study. Results indicate that knowledge positively affects the transition to a Gymnasium but is of minor relevance in explaining social differences in transition behavior. Furthermore, these positive effects of knowledge tend to be independent of both institutional constraints (here, bindingness of recommendation) and the available school types.