Educational tracking and sorting in England

This report provides an overview and brief literature review of the English education system and the relevant educational reforms in relation to educational tracking and sorting. We employ the term ‘tracking’ when referring to formal educational differentiation, while ‘sorting’ refers to informal educational differentiation. The main objective is to provide a descriptive empirical analysis that identifies the long-term consequences of educational tracking and sorting on educational and occupational attainment. We also explore to what extent educational tracking/sorting characteristics mediate the relationship between social class of origin and destination. We use the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) to provide empirical evidence for a mature cohort, mainly focusing on the role of school type and attaining a degree from a prestigious university as the main forms of educational tracking and sorting.

The Structure, Causes, and Consequences of Tracking in the Danish Education System

This report provides an overview over the institutional configuration of the Danish educational system and its development over time with a focus
on inequalities in educational attainment. We draw on population data from Danish administrative registers and we describe the development of
educational attainment including track choices and field of study specializations for individuals born from 1960-1986. This cohort range
was chosen in light of relevant institutional reforms of the Danish school system that led to changes in between- or within-school tracking.
However, the bulk of our analyses that provide a detailed picture of tracking and tracking consequences, are based on the 1975 cohort. The
first chapter provides a description of the basic structure of the Danish educational system and highlights some of the major educational reforms.
In chapter two, we follow the historical development of educational attainment. Chapter three describes the flow of individuals (born in 1975)
through the educational system. Chapter four analyses the long-term consequences associated with track choices. Finally, in chapter five some
basic decomposition analyses are presented that help us to explain to what extent the association between social origin and the attainment tertiary degrees or labor market outcomes is mediated by prior track choices.

Christian Zünd: Who we are and what we drink – genes, pubs and alcohol policy

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In Episode 6 of the DIAL podcast, Christian Zünd from the University of Zurich discusses his research looking at the interplay between our genes and what we drink, local availability of alcohol and the role of licensing laws. The research is part of the NORFACE-funded project, Gene-Environment Interplay in the Generation of Health and Education Inequalities (GEIGHEI), which is looking at how Genes and the Environment (GxE) interact to generate inequalities in education and health over the life course.

Further information:

Christian Zünd was discussing research presented at the DIAL Mid-Term Conference in June 2019.

DIAL Mid-term Conference 2019

The first mid-term conference of the DIAL (Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course) research programme will take place from the 6th to the 8th of June 2019.

For more information, visit


Karl Ulrich Mayer: A Lifecourse Observatory – no fantasy!

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In Episode 5 of the DIAL Podcast, Professor Karl Ulrich Mayer of Yale University and the Max Planck Institute of Human Development discusses life course research, longitudinal studies and how they can help develop develop effective social policy. He also discusses what he calls his “just one wish data set” and why he believes we are close to having a Lifecourse Observatory.

Karl Ulrich is a keynote speaker at the DIAL Mid-Term Conference 2019.

Useful links

Compensatory or multiplicative advantage? Parental resources, school achievement and access to higher education in Finland

The rules of intake, which determine how educational institutions are accessed, play a significant part in generating intergenerational educational inequalities. Different rules may allow parental resources to compensate for students’ lack of resources (such as academic ability) or to multiply and boost only those students who are in a position to use such additional resources. In this paper, we study compensation and multiplication of resources in the context of the Finnish higher education system. Entrance exams and a dual model (universities and polytechnics) make this system unique compared to many other Western countries and hence suitable for this study. Using high-quality register data, we studied the interaction between parental education and school achievement in the transition to higher education. We found that well-performing students are likely to access university if their parents have higher education, and to polytechnics, if their parents have basic or secondary education. Poorly performing students whose parents have higher education are likely to access polytechnics, but poorly performing students whose parents do not have a tertiary-level education are not likely to access higher education at all. Overall, our results suggest that compensatory advantage operates in accessing lower-threshold institutions and multiplicative advantage in accessing highly selective institutions.

OECD Policy Recommendations on Extending Working Lives

This Working Paper presents an overview of the OECD’s approach to extended working life, in relation to pensions and employment policy. It briefly outlines the role of the OECD and traces the evolution of OECD policy recommendations on extended working life from 2005 onwards to 2018. It discusses how the OECD recommends policies targeted at governments in terms of pension reforms including raising state pension age and linking pension amounts more closely to earnings, and anti-discrimination legislation; at employers and at improving the employability of older workers. The series of publications Pensions at a Glance, published biennially from 2005 to 2017 contains very little explicit reference to gender inequalities in pensions or indeed to women, apart from some references to family responsibilities. The 2015 report included a chapter on how incomplete careers affect pension entitlements. The critique of the OECD’s approach from a gender perspective in the academic literature is discussed. It is recommended that the OECD conduct gender-proofing to assess the implications of extended working life policy (OECD, 2017b).

COUNTRY REPORT: Czech Republic

Policies aimed at extending working lives (EWL) have only been introduced in the Czech Republic over the last 15 years. This report first describes the situation of the 50+ age group in the Czech labour market. In the second part, it maps retirement, employment, pension and other relevant policies in the Czech Republic as well as policy documents supporting active ageing. In conclusion, the authors suggest that the real or potential impact of EWL policies on the situation of women and men aged 50+ should be approached from an intersectional gender and age perspective.

COUNTRY REPORT: United Kingdom

In recent decades, the extension of working life has become a priority for policy makers in the UK. An ageing population, combined with steady increases in life expectancy, have led to a dramatic growth in the proportion of adults above State Pension age, alongside a shrinkage in the number of working-age adults. This has led to government concerns regarding not only the cost of funding State Pensions, but also the skills shortages that have resulted from the loss of older adults from the labour market via retirement. Successive UK governments have implemented a range of measures designed to encourage individuals to continue in paid work for longer. The tone of policy discourse has shifted towards the individual, with a growing emphasis on the need for individual workers to take responsibility for financial planning for their own retirement.

In this report, we consider and discuss extended working life (EWL) policies in light of current academic research. We start by presenting statistical data on UK employment rates, in order to outline the trends in age, gender and employment in recent decades. We then discuss six policy areas related to extending working life. First, we compare women and men’s participation in the labour market over the life-course. Second, policy changes related to age are discussed, including age discrimination legislation and changes to State Pension age. Third, we consider changes to social security benefits. Fourth, we provide an overview of the UK pensions system, including recent changes to the system, the introduction of occupational pensions and auto-enrolment, and opportunities for combining pensions and working. Fifth, we discuss policies related to family and caring (including grandparents’ leave). Sixth, we consider flexible work policies in the context of later-life working. The report concludes with a discussion on the potential gaps in research on extending working lives in the UK national context.

Robust Cross-country Analysis of Inequality of Opportunity

International rankings of countries based on inequality of opportunity indices may not be robust vis-à-vis the specific metric adopted to measure opportunities. Indices often aggregate relevant information and neglect to control for normatively irrelevant distributional factors. This paper shows that gap curves can be estimated from crosssectional data and adopted to test hypotheses about robust cross-country comparisons of (in)equality of opportunity.

Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course (DIAL) is a multi-disciplinary research programme consisting of thirteen European projects. The projects examine the sources, structures and consequences of inequalities in contemporary societies. The programme is funded by NORFACE for the period 2017–2021.

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