In today’s societies, education is a key dimension of social inequality. Firstly, not all population groups have the same level of access to education, which can be explained both by their varying endowments of resources and their varying educational decisions. Secondly, although educational outcomes are decisive for risks of unemployment and for positions and wages in working life, they are not rewarded equally in all social groups. Thirdly, education correlates systematically with specific behaviors in adult life, for instance in the fields of health, social participation, and divergent behavior, which further strengthens inequality. Finally, social inequality is reproduced over generations, for example when parents make occupational decisions which effect the educational decisions of their children.
The Department of Educational Decisions and Processes, Migration, Returns To Education collates projects which deal systematically with educational decisions, their effects on educational processes, and the individual’s returns from education over the life course. Of particular interest to us is the role of the central lines along which social inequalities manifest themselves in access to education, their results, and their application: social background, migration, and gender. Also, we examine the structural and institutional parameters which can channel, strengthen, or mitigate inequalities. Structural parameters like regional infrastructure, demographic position, or the economy can limit or create opportunities; institutions like the school system, family politics, or the welfare state can incentivize particular decisions on the part of the actors.
The projects in this department develop instruments for NEPS which enable the analysis of these topics; they collect additional data for examining specific aspects in more depth, and they carry out empirical research of their own on the basis of these longitudinal data in order to carry out theory-driven investigations of the emergence and reproduction of social inequality in educational decision, processes, and returns. These projects are assigned to one of four working units, and one staff position:
Working unit Educational Decisions and Social Inequality
Working unit Migration
Working unit Returns to Education
Working unit Structures and Systems
Staff position Education at a Higher Age