October 03, 2016

German children from low-educated families less likely to succeed academically

Only one in seven children in Germany whose parents do not have a university education attend the most academic high schools, according to figures released by the country’s statistics agency.

According to the study, 14% of children of low-educated parents attended Gymnasium schools in 2015, compared to 61% of children whose parents have a university degree.

In Germany, pupils are sorted into different categories of secondary school by ability. Gymnasium schools provide the most academic education, allowing pupils to progress to university, in contrast to other types of secondary school that have a more vocational focus.

The latest figures show slight progress from 2010, when 12% of children with low-educated parents attended a Gymnasium.

In March, a separate study by the Deutsche Bundesbank found that Germany had the second highest inequality in the Eurozone, after Austria.

Meanwhile, the British government has recently pledged to reintroduce selective state schools, which had previously been largely abolished in most parts of the country.

Tuomas Pekkarinen has written for IZA World of Labor about school tracking and intergenerational school mobility. He warns against introducing tracking (sorting pupils into schools by ability) too early in the schooling process, writing that: “empirical evidence shows that delaying school tracking until a later age is good for social mobility without significantly affecting average educational achievement.”

Paul J. Devereux has also written for us about the intergenerational return to human capital. Observing that better educated parents invest more time and money in their children, he writes that: “Interventions that encourage the educational attainment of children from poorer families will reduce inequality in current and future generations. In addition to purely formal education, much less expensive interventions to improve parenting skills, such as parental involvement programs in schools, may also improve child development.”

Related articles:
School tracking and intergenerational social mobility by Tuomas Pekkarinen
Intergenerational return to human capital by Paul J. Devereux
Intergenerational income persistence by Jo Blanden
Find more IZA World of Labor articles about education and human capital