LEAD Graduate School & Research Network

LEAD Intersection 5

Education, Life Course Development, and Social Disparities

In this intersection, the social embeddedness of education and learning in social contexts is examined with a special focus on the role of education in course of an individual’s lifetime. Closely related to this, the intersection also examines returns on education and training in later stages of life, such as labor market outcomes, social integration and satisfaction. The interdisciplinary approach consists of researchers from the fields of economics, sociology, Education Sciences and psychology.

The main methodological approach of the intersection is the secondary data analysis of large scale longitudinal surveys, complemented with own data collections using quantitative approaches. Regarding inequality and mobility in educational trajectories, we examine individual and context factors which explain individual educational aspirations, decisions and pathways. Research dealing with educational inequality consistently reveals that family background is highly associated with children’s school performance, educational aspirations and decisions. This research focuses on how context conditions within and outside the family, such as schools and neighborhoods, influence children’s development.

We also examine pathways into, through and out of higher education. This research scrutinizes questions of progress and persistence in higher education and strives to identify “risk-factors” that are related to delayed graduation and non-completion. In particular, the diversity of pathways to higher education raises the question of how detours to higher education translate into specific transition patterns through and out of higher education. This research therefore aims to acknowledge the embeddedness of higher education in individual vita and the resulting resources and limitations.

The research field Educational Transitions and Economic Outcomes focuses on the sequential nature of educational trajectories and on returns of education. The highly tracked educational system in Germany channels students into different tracks very early in life, which may result in path-dependencies and inequality. This area therefore aims to shed light on how the diverse non-linear pathways through the German educational system translate into revisions of early educational decisions and how this serves to reduce or enhance social inequality.