Upper secondary school tracking, labour market outcomes and intergenerational inequality in Denmark 

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This paper is a comprehensive analysis of how secondary school education of Danish children affects their early job and earning prospects.

Using administrative data on more than 50,000 children born in Denmark in 1986,  the researchers looked at whether young people were placed on an academic or vocational track at school and the sort of jobs they had secured at age 30, their likelihood of being unemployed and how much they earned. They took into account family background and earlier academic attainment.

Those young people who were streamed into the academic route were considerably more likely to be working in a professional or managerial role in the ‘service class’ than their peers who left school or were placed on a vocational path. There were differences also within the academic pathway with those following the ‘mathematics’ and ‘technical’ track enjoying even greater returns than their academic as well as their vocational peers.

Following a vocational path played a strong protective role from unemployment, and earnings were roughly similar.

The researchers say the findings provide important new insights into how the Danish system of tracking in upper secondary education influences the employment outcomes of young people and the role it plays in reproducing inequalities across generations. They point out that those inequalities are likely to be even more pronounced in countries with less of a focus on equality and fairness and with a less generous welfare regime.

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