Education Inequality Among Shrinking Cities and Regions in East Germany

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:45 PM
Room: 311+312
Distributed Paper
Reinhold SACKMANN , Institute for Sociology, University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale), Germany
When birth rates drop the education system is the first social field to be confronted with new challenges. Due to compulsory schooling the size of birth cohorts affects the general school system quasi-automatically with dwindling enrolments. Newspapers in shrinking regions announce regularly school closings, a topic which is highly controversial both among the decision makers in charge and the affected communities. Pupils do not only have to cover larger distances to school but also the affected places fear to lose their attractiveness as a business and housing location. As the number of shrinking cities and rural areas (especially in Europe and East Asia) increases, it becomes crucial to investigate which consequences declining cohort sizes have for the school system. Are declining birth rates increasing inter-regional education inequality?

The basic assumption of the proposed paper presentation is that some cities and rural areas are more resilient than others when their schooling infrastructure has to cope with declining birth rates. Cities and rural areas have different economic bases. This is not only true when cities and rural areas are compared with each other but also within these broad spatial categories. From this point of view it can be suspected that school infrastructures in more affluent regions will be more resilient to declining birth rates than those in economically poorer regions. However, as schools are part of public infrastructure in many countries, this theoretically plausible relationship might also be modified by political decisions.

The analysis is based on school level data from East German regions for the 1990 and 2000 years. This regional focus is especially interesting for East Germany faced a very steep decline in birth rates during the early 1990s. The empirical strategy applies (fixed effect) panel regression models which are especially suited to analyse changes over time.