This study asks two questions about the relationship between academic selection and social inequality: does increasing selection lead to a deeper social divide in education? And does postponing the age at which academic selection takes place help mitigate that inequality?
The research uses data from the European Social Survey. It focuses on individuals born between 1973 and 1995 who had turned 25 by the time they were surveyed – a sample of almost 60,000 people in 32 countries.
On the first question, the study finds that as students’ ability becomes more important in school selection, educational attainment becomes more closely linked to social background.
Secondly, the research finds that if the age of academic selection is increased, the benefits of coming from a more highly-educated family background decrease.
The study illustrates how the role of different dimensions of stratification in education systems can affect the effects of social background on educational attainment, the author concludes.