Late Selection, More Equality of Opportunity? an Experimental Analysis

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:54
Location: Hörsaal 27 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Benita COMBET, University of Bern, Switzerland
Joel BERGER, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
A longstanding hypothesis of educational sociology is that the timing of tracking affects track choice differently for students of low and high social background. The earlier tracking occurs, the less inclined are parents from lower classes to choose longer educational tracks. One explanation is that upper class parents react less to the timing of tracking, since their aim is to reproduce their social position (Breen/Goldthorpe 1997). In order to test this hypothesis, we conducted a laboratory experiment in which participants had to solve a certain numbers of anagrams in a time period over several rounds with increasing time pressure. Not solving enough anagrams would lead to a lower payoff in the end. We manipulated two factors: The first factor is timing of decision. Participants had to decide after a short time period (early decision) or a long time period (late decision) whether they wanted to continue solving anagrams. A second experimental factor was status maintenance. Half of the subjects could win money if they completed enough anagrams (no motive for status maintenance), while the other half could lose all of the money (motive for status maintenance). We hypothesize that the risk of continuing with the anagrams was greater in the system with early tracking because it is harder to estimate one’s future performance (i.e. one’s ability to solve enough anagrams under increasing time pressure). However, in accordance with the status maintenance motive, this should concern individuals without a motive for status maintenance more. Therefore, the difference in the rates of subjects who decide to continue between individuals with and without motive for status maintenance should be greater when decisions are made early. Indeed, we found that an early decision point reduced the overall willingness to continue but more so for subjects without a motive for status maintenance.