Does tracking really affect labour-market outcomes in the long run? Estimating the long-term effects of secondary-school tracking in West Germany

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This paper investigates to what extent track attendance in secondary education affects labour-market prospects of West German individuals with similar starting conditions. The article also focuses on whether track attendance has a role in widening social inequality.

Using pooled data from two panel studies on West Germans born between 1964 and 1986, the researchers investigate if being placed on a higher track in secondary school leads to labor market advantages at the beginning of the occupational career and at occupational maturity (around the age of 34).

They found on average, that individuals placed on lower tracks were less likely to enter a service class job and more likely to have lower prestigious occupations than those who attended higher tracks. This was the case both at the entry into the labor market and occupational maturity.

As expected, when the researchers accounted for final educational attainment the differences disappeared, but, interestingly, and contrary to what they expected, there were no evidence that individuals from more privileged backgrounds were less affected by being placed on lower tracks.

The researchers point to the limitations posed by the lack of data on pre-tracking abilities but found a strategy to account for ability differences before tracking.

This is part of a special issue prepared by the LIFETRACK project. Other articles of this special issue can be found here.