Abstract: To what degree and extent is the educational distribution in successive generations affected by parental differential fertility and social inequalities in educational attainment? Lower educated women, for example, are likely to have more children than higher educated women, and the children of lower educated mothers are more likely to attain less education than the children of higher educated mothers. This may lead to a downward pressure on the average level of education in the next generation. The aim of this article is to quantify the role of these mechanisms for West Germany in the 20 th century. This is done by simulating the distribution of education under different scenarios: a reference scenario in which all rates correspond to the empirically observed rates, a scenario that completely removes differential fertility, a scenario that completely removes inequality of educational opportunity, and a scenario that greatly increases the amount of differential fertility. The main finding is that the observed levels of inequality of educational opportunity and differential fertility are too small to result in a meaningful impact on the distribution of education in the subsequent generation. Both the first and the second scenario lead to only minor changes in the distribution of education compared with the reference scenario. However, in principle differential fertility could have a noticeable effect. This is illustrated by the results from the last scenario in which fertility of the lowest educated women is greatly increased. In such an extreme but not impossible society the average education would be considerably lower than in the reference scenario.
Population Review – Sociological Demography Press
Published: Jul 10, 2012
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