Immigrant Students’ Transition to Higher Education in Germany

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Julian SEURING, University of Bamberg, Germany
Cornelia KRISTEN, University of Bamberg, Germany
In most societies, immigrant students often attain lower educational outcomes than their majority peers. However, previous findings indicate that once students achieve certificates that allow them to enter higher education, immigrant students are more inclined to enroll in college than majority students. In this contribution we aim to identify the factors that underlie suchlike ethnic inequalities at the transition from secondary education to higher education in Germany.

Emanating from a rational choice approach, we argue that immigrant students evaluate the outcomes of higher education more favorable than those of vocational training. More precisely, immigrant students expect higher benefits of college degrees, as a result of their parents’ high aspiration for intergenerational upward mobility. Furthermore, they may be less familiar with the German system of vocational training and underestimate the labor market prospects that are linked to vocational degrees. Another argument suggests that immigrant students are more confident when assessing the probability to successfully achieve a college degree. As immigrant students often face additional difficulties in the school system, those who have successfully overcome the hurdles in secondary education tend to be more optimistic about their educational capacities.

Using a sample of 4,838 high school graduates who have participated in the German National Educational Panel Study, we employ logistic regression models to analyze whether the transition rates to higher education differ between ethnic minority and majority students. The findings indicate that Turkish students enter college significantly more when compared to majority students and other immigrant groups. Using the KHB decomposition method, we find that differences in parents’ educational aspirations, expected returns from higher education, and probability of success largely account for Turkish students’ higher transition rates. Turkish students and their parents do not seem to evaluate college degrees more favorable than other ethnic groups, but rather significantly underrate vocational certificates.