Family Assets, Habitus and Educational Strategies in Local Contexts: The Impact of the Swedish Market Reforms of Compulsory Education

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Mikael PALME, Uppsala University, Sweden
The paper synthesizes the results from a larger study of the significance for social groups’ educational strategies of the market-oriented reforms of compulsory education in Sweden in the 1990s. The transformations of the supply of compulsory education is mapped out in three regions with different characteristics – the rural Bergslagen, the university city of Uppsala and the densely populated Stockholm region. Using correspondence analysis of indicators on inherited assets of all pupils changes are analysed of the social structure of the local educational spaces in which families’ educational strategies unfold. Approximately 200 families representing different social classes and fractions are interviewed, exploring how families with different volume and composition of assets navigate in the educational landscape.

While the analyses confirm that compulsory education primarily is structured along an opposition between groups rich in capital and groups with weak assets, a second opposition appears between cultural and economic fractions. In demographically dense areas, where marketization has led to a sharply increased supply of schools, the culturally rich families, whose habitus traditionally favour public education and cherish Bildung-related values, find themselves in increased competition with families close to the economic sector who celebrate utility and competitiveness. While part of this struggle is resolved by the rise of schools with particular profiles, such as music classes, the educational competition promotes increased pupil mobility in search for the best education, imposing carefully monitored, strategic educational choices also on families who resent them. Interviews testify to that educational strategies need to be understood as part of reproduction strategies in particular local contexts where a multitude of concerns consumes families’ time, effort and assets, such as habitation, work opportunities, economic conditions, transport, the availability of different leisure activities, the existing supply of education, and, not least at all, family and social networks.