Intergenerational mobility, intergenerational effects, sibling correlations, and equality of opportunity: a comparison of four approaches

This paper presents and discusses four different approaches to the study of how individuals’ income and education during adulthood are related to their family background. The most well-known approach, intergenerational mobility, describes how parents’ and offspring’s income or education are related to each other. The intergenerational-effect literature addresses the question how an intervention that changes parental income or education causally affects their children’s outcome. The sibling-correlation approach estimates the share of total inequality that is attributed to factors shared by siblings. This share is generally substantially higher than what is revealed by intergenerational mobility estimates. Finally, the equality-of-opportunity approach is looking for a set of factors, in the family background and otherwise, that are important for children’s outcomes and that children cannot be held accountable for. We argue that all four approaches are most informative and that recent research has provided insightful results. However, by comparing results from the different approaches, it is possible to paint a more nuanced picture of the role of family background. Thus, we recommend that scholars working in the four subfields pay more attention to each other’s research.

Divorced and Unemployed: the Declining Association between Two Critical Lifecourse States in the UK, 1984-2017

Individuals exposed to both job loss and marital dissolution are likely to be highly disadvantaged, having experienced stresses and losses in the two primary domains of life. Moreover, recent literature finds that exposure to one event tends to increase the risk of the other. However, next to nothing is known about the size or composition – or changes therein – of the divorced/separated and unemployed (DSU) subpopulation. Using large, nationally representative, repeated cross-sectional datasets extending back to 1984, we aim to fill this gap for the UK. We give a descriptive account of the prevalence and social distribution of DSU, and of the cross-sectional association between its two component states: among which groups, by education and gender, does being either divorced/separated or unemployed most strongly imply a heightened risk of also being the other, and how has this changed over time? We find stable and strong educational inequality in DSU, while the gender gap has narrowed and recently closed. The association between the two states is stronger among men; has weakened strikingly over the time period we consider, for both men and, especially, women; and is educationally stratified among men but not women. Contrary to expectations, higher-educated men in one of the two states are most likely to also be in the other. Possible explanations and further questions are discussed. In particular, we highlight the possibility that over this time period the divorced/separated have become more like the general population, rather than a negatively selected subgroup among whom unemployment is a particular risk.

Download supplemental material

Tracking in the Italian Education System

In this report, we provide an overview of tracking, that is the choice of the type of secondary school, in Italy. First, we describe the structure of the Italian education system and its main reforms. We detail broad and curricular tracking both between and within schools. We focus on upper secondary school, since in Italy the school tracks branch at this node. Second, we use the Italian Household Longitudinal Study (IHLS) data to illustrate both the trends in educational attainment and the educational trajectories for four birth cohorts (1927-47, 1948-57, 1958-67 and 1968-77). Third, we report the pattern of association between tracking and social inequality for the 1958-67 birth cohort. Specifically, we show that parental education and social class of origin are strongly correlated to track placement. Moreover, the choice of upper secondary school is associated to the final educational attainment and the position in the labor market at occupational maturity. Furthermore, tracking mediates almost half of the association between social background and educational and labor market outcomes.

Tracking and Sorting in the German Educational System. Literature review and analyses of the birth cohorts 1970-1980

This report reviews the key modes of creating social dispersion in the German educational system by sorting students into distinct groups based on performance or choice. It describes the basic structure of the German educational system and the specific modes of sorting at the different stages of education from early childhood education and care until tertiary education, building on country-specific literature, administrative documents and official data. It places a specific focus on secondary schooling, where formal tracking is most prevalent. The report is complemented by descriptive analyses for the birth cohorts 1970-1980 in West Germany based on data from the National Educational Panel Study, Starting Cohort 6. It describes their educational pathways, the role of social origin in track placement, the long-term consequences of tracking, and its contribution to long-term social inequality. Findings based on new data covering detailed educational biographies show that the three different tracks lead to different educational and vocational trajectories; at the same time, there are manifold ways to reach similar attainment and to upgrade previous certificates. Parental resources (in terms of education or occupational class) are strongly associated with track placement. While students’ track location at different ages increases its importance in predicting educational outcomes, occupational measures are found to be less sensitive to respondents’ track location. This is especially true for unemployment and earnings. Finally, track placement at the beginning of lower secondary education accounts from on third to half of the difference in educational and labour market attainment due to social background and subsequent track mobility further mediates social background differences. A next step will be to investigate to which extent the effect of track placement is due to individuals’ self-selection into tracks.

Tracking and Sorting in the French Educational System

This paper provides an overview of tracking policies in secondary education in France. Drawing on two large datasets on educational trajectories and labour-market outcomes, it identifies patterns of social inequalities associated with track allocation in secondary education. It assesses the long-term consequences of track assignment and its mediating role in the association between social origin and occupational outcomes. Results confirm the large association between social origin and track allocation on the one hand, and between track attainment and higher education and labour-market outcomes at occupational maturity on the other hand. We also find that track attainment accounts for a large share of the association between social origin, measured either by parental education or by social class, and outcomes at occupational maturity. These results highlight the importance of tracking policies for social stratification in the French context.

Tracking and sorting in the Finnish educational system

This report gives a brief overview of educational tracking and sorting in the Finnish educational system. In Finland, students are divided into different tracks relatively late even though between and within-school tracking exists at all educational levels in some forms. In this report, we present descriptive empirical analyses of long-term consequences of educational tracking by social origin using full population Finnish register data. According to our analyses, parental education and parental social class are associated with track choice at upper secondary and tertiary education. Track choice at upper secondary education is also associated with several outcomes at occupational maturity, such as final educational attainment, social class, earnings and unemployment. Track choice at tertiary education partly explains these associations but the coefficients remain statistically significant in most of the cases. Furthermore, our decomposition analyses show a direct effect of social origin on outcomes at occupational maturity which is not explained by track choice at upper secondary and tertiary education.

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.

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

Authors: Áine Ní Léime,
Series: Issue: 08 2019

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).