The Economic Lives of Students. the Relation between Economic and Educational Capital at Different Places in the Landscape of Swedish Higher Education

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:30
Oral Presentation
Martin GUSTAVSSON, Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (Score), Sweden
Andreas MELLDAHL, Uppsala University, Dept. of Education, Sweden
At the same time as the number of students in Swedish higher education has dramatically increased during the last 25 years the economic inequalities in society at large has widened, thereby increasingly reaching into the life of the average student. Yet there is little knowledge on the economic lives of Swedish students: where in the educational landscape is the situation particularly dire and for which students are the financial means scarce – or abundant.

The Swedish student aid system is perceived to be generous: all students have access to it. As a consequence there is a widespread assumption in the public and scientific discourse that there are no real financial barriers surrounding higher education. However, the public financial arrangement includes substantial private co-funding. Apart from a minor grant the public means comes in the form of loans.

In this paper the distribution of different modes of study financing (study loans, wage labour, own and inherited wealth, etc.) is analysed and related to the distribution of the formal prerequisites for entering higher education (grades and/or results from aptitude tests). Thereby the paper sheds light onto the material preconditions for acquiring meritocratic goods in a social democratic welfare regime.

Pierre Bourdieu’s theories serve at the theoretical point of departure. What is the importance of economic capital – the dominant form of capital in capitalist societies – for the accumulation of educational (and cultural) capital? Datasets from Statistics Sweden, covering all students in Swedish higher education, are utilized to answer the research questions.