Social Background Effects in the Transition to a Doctoral Degree
The aim of this study is therefore to examine the relevance of social background at the transition to a doctoral degree based on data of the longitudinal study “Learning Processes, Educational Careers and Psychosocial Development in Adolescence” conducted in Germany. The study is drawn on the theoretical concept of primary and secondary effects of social background developed by Boudon (1974). It is analysed what proportion of the social background effect is transmitted via performance differences in final secondary school and university marks and standardised tests. Further, the relevance of mechanisms of a cost-benefit analysis and education-biography-related factors is examined.
The results show, that tertiary graduates from higher educational backgrounds are more likely to start doctoral studies, especially if at least one of their parents holds a doctoral degree. The social background effect can be traced back in particular to differences in final marks and previous decisions made at the beginning of the tertiary degree, the subject and type of tertiary institution.
Boudon, R. (1974). Education, Opportunity, and Social Inequality. Changing Prospects in Western Society. New York: Wiley.
Mertens, A., & Röbken, H. (2013). Does a doctoral degree pay off? An empirical analysis of rates of return of German doctorate holders. Higher Education, 66, 217-231.