Long-term Trends in Educational Inequality in Europe: Class Inequalities and Gender DifferencesISER External Seminars

In their widely cited study, Shavit and Blossfeld (1993) report stability of socio-economic inequalities in educational attainment over much of the twentieth century in 11 out of 13 countries. This result was somewhat surprising because there are good reasons to expect that inequalities should have declined over this period. The presentation outlines reasons why one might expect to find declining class inequalities in educational attainment and, using a large data set for eight European countries, it analyzes and compares trends among men and women in class differences in educational attainment over the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. It asks whether class differences among the two sexes are similar or not; and whether trends in class differences over birth cohorts have differed between men and women. We find that, as expected, over the twentieth century, inequalities between men and women in their educational attainment declined markedly. More importantly, changes in class inequalities in educational attainment have been similar for both men and women, although, in some countries, women displayed greater inequality at the start of the twentieth century and have shown a somewhat greater rate of increase in equality. Patterns of class inequality were also largely similar for both sexes, though in some countries daughters of farmers and the petty-bourgeoisie did relatively better than their brothers. While some of these results reinforce what has long been believed, our central finding of a decline in class inequality in educational attainment for both men and women contradicts the ‘persistent inequality’ in education that earlier scholars claimed existed.

The presentation is based on the following two articles in the process of publication:
Breen, R., Luijkx, R., Müller, W. and Pollak, R. (in print) ’Non-Persistent Inequality in Educational Attainment: Evidence from Eight European Countries’. American Journal of Sociology, vol. 114, no. 5
Breen, R., Luijkx, R., Müller, W. and Pollak, R. (in print) ‘Long term trends in educational inequality in Europe: class inequalities and gender difference’. European Sociological Review, Advance Access published on February 18, 2009, doi:10.1093/esr/jcp001

Presented by:

Walter Mueller (Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, University of Mannheim, Germany)

Date & time:

May 11, 2009 3:00 pm - May 11, 2009 4:30 pm

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