Social Inequality in Higher Education. Is Vocational Training a Pathway Leading to or Away from University?
AbstractThis paper analyses theoretically the decision to enrol in university under the conditions of certain educational systems. In particular, the impact of an institutional alternative of vocational training (as in Germany) and the possibility of combining vocational and academic training are examined. The comparison of educational systems shows how different types may give rise to social class differences in participation in higher education. We trace back this comparison to individual decisions after leaving upper secondary education which we represent by a formal model. Here, we can refer to theories that were developed to explain social differences in other kinds of educational transitions. Using a model of utility maximization, we specify the returns to education in the form of expected future income within a certain time. By introducing social differences in the relevant parameters, our model offers an explanation of why school‐leavers from different social origins have incentives to choose different educational paths. We also find evidence that the populations in different tracks might differ with respect to average achievement. Finally, we give a brief discussion on implications for further research.