Education, Stratification and Reform : Educational Institutions in Comparative Perspective

Abstract: The main argument of this thesis is that research has to take the institutional character of education seriously. Educational institutions carry considerable weight for outcomes of education and their design is a matter of intense political debate. This work focuses in particular on the institution of tracking that has wide-reaching consequences for the structure of education. The thesis consists of an introductory essay, together with three empirical essays. The empirical essays all acknowledge the main argument but study different outcomes and relationships connected to education. Essay I studies how the institutions of political economy and education together affect equality of income and equality of educational opportunity. This essay contributes to the literature by distinguishing the effects of the different institutions of political economy and education, as well as how they interact to affect the two contrasting conceptions of equality. The results reveal that tracking hinders equality of educational opportunity but is also related to better incomes for vocational education graduates in certain institutional settings. Wage bargaining coordination reinforces the more equal educational opportunities of weakly tracked contexts and improves the relative income of vocational graduates in these contexts. Essay II explores how education and tracking affect social trust. It makes two contributions. First, the empirical approach provides strong support for causal inference. Second, it is the first study to consider how tracking affects social trust. The empirical evidence finds no general effect of educational attainment on social trust, but decreasing tracking has a positive effect on social trust for individuals who come from weakly educated backgrounds. Essay III aims to explain cross-country differences in tracking by focusing on the impact of government partisanship. The study contributes to the literature by being the first comparative study to explore how partisan politics may explain differences in tracking and being one of few comparative studies there are on the topic at all. The results show that tracking is strongly related to a dominance of Christian democratic governments, whereas detracking reforms have mainly been carried out by social democratic governments.