Which Japanese Study Abroad? Concerning the Accumulation of Transnational Human Capital in Japan and Its Impact on Social Disparities

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 13:24
Oral Presentation
Steve ENTRICH, University of Potsdam, Germany
Japanese families are known for their massive private investment in supplementary education. Until recently, however, such investments did only rarely target the increase of students’ ‘transnational human capital’. In international comparison only a below OECD-average percentage of Japanese students studies abroad at the tertiary and upper secondary education levels. However, according to recent data of the Japanese Ministry of Education, the number of university students enrolling at universities overseas actually increased recently. Besides making investments in shadow education to increase the chances of gaining access to high ranked schools/universities, other ways of improving one’s skills, such as the accumulation of transnational human capital through studying abroad have become increasingly attractive – not least because of the possible positive effects on future income. As Lucas (2001) argued when proposing his effectively maintained inequality (EMI) concept, socioeconomically advantaged families seek advantages wherever possible. The question addressed here is whether socioeconomically advantaged families invest in transnational human capital to gain competitive advantages as a means of maintaining their status advantage? Based on data of the 2013 Benesse Gakkōgaikyōikuhi Chōsa (for 15.000 students aged 3 to 18), the determinants for investments in this increasingly valued type of capital is analyzed across 15 age cohorts enrolled in four education levels: pre-school, primary school, middle school, and high school. Findings show that high status parents are most likely to invest in study abroad for their children, particularly when children become older. If these children have already experience with staying abroad and with certain types of supplementary education (particularly additional English language classes), they will be most likely to study abroad in the future also. Therefore, it seems likely that upper class families make such investments to achieve competitive status advantages during their children’s school life course in preparation of entrance to tertiary education and job market.