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Educational Aspirations of Immigrants and Their Decendants across the Educational Career: Migration-Specific Explanatory Theorems and Their Empirical Testing


The aim of the project was to describe the development of educational aspirations of immigrants and their descendants over time and to explain why comparatively high educational aspirations are found in immigrant families and what typical patterns and trajectories can be expected.



For this purpose, arguments which have been raised in the literature were taken up and discussed with regard to their implications for the formation of idealistic and realistic aspirations. It was assumed that different models could be used for this purpose, which were then further specified with a view to the underlying processes. This would allow differentiated predictions to be derived, for example, for developments in aspirations over time and in the course of education.

The project aimed at contributing to existing research in various ways:

  1. By embedding various arguments in a general theoretical framework
  2. By providing a theoretical integration of idealistic and realistic aspirations
  3. Via a discussion of the underlying processes which is explicitely linked to the more general theoretical account
  4. By conducting an empirical study which is based on more direct measurements of the central dependent variables and of the different parameters of the theoretical model
  5. By complementing this empirical account with more direct measures of the central independent variables
  6. By providing analyses of the development of aspirations over time


The considerations were tested using longitudinal data from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS; Blossfeld et al. 2011). The focus of the analysis was on school cohort 3, which starts in the 5th grade and accompanies the students through secondary level I and II.

The advantage of the NEPS data for addressing these questions is that the central dependent variables were recorded in detail and consistently across several survey waves, and were supplemented by dependent variables specific to educational stages. In addition, the key independent variables were also measured in great detail and, in some cases, across multiple survey waves. The potential of these constructs in the NEPS was analyzed and documented in detail within the project and this information was made available to the scientific community.


Project profile




Schmaus, M., Olczyk, M., Neumeyer, S., & Will, G. (2024). High realistic aspirations – Do normative pressures overthrow rational calculations? Applying the model of frame selection to the educational aspirations of immigrant and majority students in Germany. Rationality and Society, 36(1), 34-65.


Schörner, K., & Bittmann, F. (2023). Children’s aspirations, their perceptions of parental aspirations, and parents’ factual aspirations - gaining insights into a complex world of interdependencies. European Sociological Review. Advance online publication.


Neumeyer, S., Olczyk, M., Schmaus, M., & Will, G. (2022). Reducing or widening the gap? How the educational aspirations and expectations of Turkish and majority families develop during lower secondary education in Germany. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 74(2), 259–285.


Horr, A., de Paiva Lareiro, C., & Will, G. (2020). Messung wahrgenommener ethnischer Diskriminierung im Nationalen Bildungspanel (NEPS). NEPS Survey Paper 68. Leibniz-Institut für Bildungsverläufe, Nationales Bildungspanel.


Olczyk, M., & Will, G. (2019). Measuring knowledge about the German education system in NEPS. NEPS Survey Paper 56. Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories, National Educational Panel Study.