Educational equalization stalled? Trends in inequality of educational opportunity between 1930 and 1980 across 26 European nations

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Series Details Vol.20, No.1, February 2018, p1-25
Publication Date February 2018
ISSN 1461-6696
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This article assesses trends over time in the influence of social origins on educational attainment in 26 European countries. We use a cumulative dataset that merges the European Social Survey (waves 2002–2010), the International Social Survey Programme (1999, 2009) and the European Value Study (2008).

Our contribution to the literature is threefold. First, we replicate as closely as possible the previous study by Breen et al. and extend it to a larger set of countries and to more recent cohorts. Second, we reassess the argument that equalization does not involve higher education. Third, we consider whether our conclusions change if we use a more comprehensive measurement of social origins that jointly incorporates indicators of social class, social status and parental education.

We detect a generalized reduction of educational inequalities in the post-war decades. When we focus on higher education, we still detect evidence of equalization, although to a lower extent. Our analyses do not support the claim that, when using a more comprehensive treatment of social origins, the patterns for different indicators evolve in opposite directions.

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