Journal Article

Educational Expansion and Persistent Inequalities of Education: Utilizing Subjective Expected Utility Theory to Explain Increasing Participation Rates in Upper Secondary School in the Federal Republic of Germany

Rolf Becker

in European Sociological Review

Volume 19, issue 1, pages 1-24
Published in print February 2003 | ISSN: 0266-7215
Published online February 2003 | e-ISSN: 1468-2672 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/esr/19.1.1
Educational Expansion and Persistent Inequalities of Education: Utilizing Subjective Expected Utility Theory to Explain Increasing Participation Rates in Upper Secondary School in the Federal Republic of Germany

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This investigation attempts to answer the question why more and more parents have chosen the Gymnasium for their children's secondary school education in post‐war West Germany. Based on the theory of subjective expected utility, the crucial mechanisms of parental educational decisions have been emphasized. From this perspective it is assumed that increasing educational motivation coupled with changes in the subjective evaluation of the cost–benefit of education were important conditions for an increasing participation in upper secondary schools. These were, however, in turn, the result of educational expansion. The empirical analyses for three time‐periods in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s confirm these assumptions to a large degree. Additionally, empirical evidence was found to suggest that in addition to the intentions of parents and the educational career of their children, structural moments of educational expansion and their own inertia played an important role in the pupils' transition from one educational level to the next. Finally, evidence was found that persistent class‐specific educational inequality stems from a constant balance in the relative cost–benefit advantages between social classes as well as from an increasing difference of primary origin effect between social classes in the realization of their educational choice.

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Subjects: Sociology

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