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Unequalizer Corona? “Soziale Welt” Special Issue Looks at Pandemic from a Long-term Perspective

In its current special issue, "Soziale Welt," one of the leading sociological journals in the German-speaking area, looks at the long-term consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. In doing so, the six articles deal with the longer-term contexts and impacts of the Corona crisis on social inequalities. Common to all is the central question: Did the Covid-19 pandemic increase social inequality in Germany?

With its medium- and long-term perspective, the special issue aims to broaden the previous view of the pandemic. "Complementing earlier research that focused on the immediate consequences of the pandemic, this special issue is dedicated to its longer-term effects on the basis of qualitative and quantitative longitudinal data," say Prof. Dr. Corinna Kleinert (LIfBi - Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories) and Prof. Dr. Michael Gebel (University of Bamberg) in the editorial. The special issue takes a look at a broad spectrum of possible effects of the pandemic and covers different areas of life: Education, family life and social networks, work and political trust.

Simple picture of increasing inequality is not supported

Kleinert and Gebel name one key finding in the editorial: the Corona crisis is not a blanket unequalizer. Rather, the six articles in the special issue paint a complex picture of the effects, consequences and concomitants of the pandemic and thus do not support the simple picture of an increasing general social inequality as a result of the Corona crisis.

Two of the six articles are by LIfBi researchers and use longitudinal data from the National Educational Panel Study:

Learning in the Pandemic Leads to Better Grades

Titled "Less learned but still good grades (for some)," Dr. Christoph Homuth and Felix Bittmann from LIfBi examine the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on student learning and learning differences across social groups. To do so, they compared students from two starting cohorts of the National Educational Panel Study: one cohort had completed eighth grade normally, the other at the time of the pandemic. They analyzed the impact of the pandemic on grades in mathematics and German at the end of eighth grade.

Contrary to expectations that grades during school closures would correlate less with cognitive skills and more strongly with social background than in previous school years, Homuth and Bittmann found no systematic increase in educational inequality based on students' social backgrounds – but they did find a trend towards better grades in the pandemic cohort.

Political Trust Before and After the Pandemic

Florian Weber (LIfBi), Raffaela Gentile (LIfBi), Hanna Reichelt, Andreas Horr (LIfBi), Tatjana Taraszow, and Angelina Springer investigated how political and institutional trust changed among people with a migration background in Germany compared to people without a migration background over the course of the pandemic. Using data from the NEPS adult cohort, they were able to show that political trust increased significantly at the beginning of the pandemic only among respondents without an immigrant background and the second generation, but not among the first generation. Later, in the first year of the pandemic, political trust was significantly higher than before the pandemic among all groups.

The special issue of "Soziale Welt" is available online in the Nomos eLibary (external link).

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