Incomplete equalization: the effect of tracking in secondary education on educational inequality

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This paper tests whether the existence of vocationally oriented tracks within a traditionally academically oriented upper education system reduces socioeconomic inequalities in educational attainment. Based on a statistical model of educational transitions and data on two entire cohorts of Danish youth, we find that (1) the vocationally oriented tracks are less socially selective than the traditional academic track; (2) attending the vocationally oriented tracks has a negative effect on the likelihood of enrolling in higher education; and (3) in the aggregate the vocationally oriented tracks improve access to lower-tier higher education for low-SES students. These findings point to an interesting paradox in that tracking has adverse effects at the micro-level but equalizes educational opportunities at the macro-level. We also discuss whether similar mechanisms might exist in other educational systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1431-1442
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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