Education as a Mediator of the Association between Origins and Destinations: The Role of Early Skills

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Sociological research examining how education mediates the association between occupational origins and destinations has long relied on the origins-education-destinations framework. We argue that the framework would benefit from factoring in processes of early skill formation to better grasp the mechanisms through which education becomes a channel of social reproduction. We propose that education is a mediator of the origins-destinations associations as a result of two processes: The sorting into schooling on early skills and the independent mediating impact of education net of early skills. We outline the implications of this distinction for comparative research, stressing that education can be a mediator of the origins-destinations associations as a result of factors that have little to do with the effects of schools and schooling. Analyzing data from the National Child Development Study and the British Cohort Study, we show that the conventional OED framework may overstate the independent mediating role of education by up to about 25 percent. We discuss the implications of our framework for policies about using education as a vehicle for promoting social mobility.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in Social Stratification and Mobility
Pages (from-to)100436
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

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