Diploma-inflatie en onderwijsongelijkheid [Credential inflation and educational inequality]
Number of pages
SourceMens en Maatschappij, 80, 1, (2005), pp. 25-47
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ RSCR SOC
Mens en Maatschappij
SubjectInequality, cohesion and modernization; Ongelijkheid, cohesie en modernisering
Rational choice explanations for educational inequality have seen a renewed interest since Commented out Element Breen and Goldthorpe (1997) formulated the relative risk aversion (RRA) mechanism: people make educational choices to avoid downward mobility. Despite recent progress in empirical tests of this mechanism, mostly hypotheses are tested that could easily follow from other (e.g. cultural) theories in the field. In this paper a new way of testing the RRA mechanism is proposed, in which the changing value of qualifications plays a central role. Following the basic assumption of minimizing the chance of downward mobility, it is hypothesized that an intergenerational decrease of the labour market value of an educational transition leads to higher probabilities to make that transition. This goes against human capital theory. Empirical tests on a collection of Dutch survey data show that the impact of intergenerational credential inflation/deflation follows the pattern of relative risk aversion theory. However, the transition into upper secondary education is more consistent with human capital theory. There are large differences by social background regarding the impact of credential inflation on educational decisions, which is consistent with the thesis that social groups differ in the information they have at their disposal about the labour market value of qualifications.
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