Leveling the Field? Educational Expansion and Occupational Attainment in Latin America
To what extent this view of educational expansion as a mechanism for the reduction of educational inequalities is supported by the actual experience of Latin American countries? In this paper we take a look at this question by analyzing national survey data on intergenerational occupational mobility by educational level in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. Out aims are to establish, first, the nature and magnitude of the association between socioeconomic background and educational attainment, second, to what extent access to education increases chances of upward occupational mobility, and third, whether those individuals coming from a disadvantaged social background but with access to education are able to overcome inequality of opportunity and experience similar levels of attainment than those coming from advantaged families.
Our expectation is that our findings will support a “middle ground” interpretation on the effects of education on the equalization of opportunities of occupational attainment. On one hand, we expect a strong and permanent association between socioeconomic background and educational attainment. But given that access to higher education is still restricted for children of families with low socioeconomic background, those who are able to enter this level are positively selected by unobserved positive traits that compensate the negative effects of socioeconomic background, therefore generating a leveling off effect in chances of occupational attainment vis a vis children with an advantaged socioeconomic background.