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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Glaesser, J. & Cooper, B. (2011). Selectivity and Flexibility in the German Secondary School System: A Configurational Analysis of recent data from the German Socio-Economic Panel. European Sociological Review 27(5): 570-585.

Author(s) from Durham


Debate continues in many European countries about both equality of opportunity and the continuing wastage of talent, and the ways in which differing systems of secondary schooling contribute to these. Drawing on Turner’s concepts of sponsored and contest mobility and on Allmendinger’s classification along the dimensions of stratification and selection, we describe the amount of flexibility currently in the German secondary school system which, despite ongoing reforms, is still stratified and selective. Earlier research suggests that the sorting process is socially, not just academically, selective. Building on this, we analyse factors influencing whether individuals make use of the available opportunities for changing track. We find that, rather than alleviating the early social inequality, these opportunities reinforce it since young people from more privileged backgrounds are more likely to benefit from flexibility, whereas disadvantaged individuals are more likely to drop out of the academic track. Most earlier relevant work has used regression-based methods, but we use an alternative configurational method, Ragin’s Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). Using this set theoretic approach allows us, when exploring what conjunctions of factors are sufficient conditions for the types of mobility we focus upon, to move beyond the limitations of a ‘net effects’ approach.

School of Education