Theses Doctoral

Three Essays on the Economics of Education: Equal Opportunities for All? Inequalities in the German Education System

Zander, Sabine

The importance of tracking and educational reforms over the last decades in Germany, and their consequences in terms of inequalities, connects the three papers of this dissertation. In my first paper, I examine causal effects of relative school-starting age on children’s math, science, and reading competencies in primary school, as well as on teacher track recommendation at the end of grade four and actual track choice in grade five. I employ a fuzzy regression discontinuity design to account for the endogeneity of school-starting age. I find substantial positive effects on math, science, and reading competencies; my results also provide evidence that students who are the oldest in their cohort are more likely to receive a high-track teacher recommendation or attend a high-track school, compared to students who are among the youngest. I do not find differential effects depending on the student’s gender or socioeconomic background. In my second paper, I analyze the interacting influences of school type attended and school certificate earned on students’ transition chances to fully qualifying vocational training in Germany. More specifically, employing linear probability models, I explore whether those chances are different for intermediate (Realschule) certificate graduates depending on the type of school at which the certificate was obtained, and whether students attending the lowest-track Hauptschule who graduated with an intermediate certificate have better transition chances compared to their peers who earned lower school certificates. I find that intermediate certificate graduates who attended a Hauptschule have lower transition chances than intermediate certificate graduates who attended a Realschule or comprehensive school. I also find that students who attended a Hauptschule and graduated with an intermediate certificate have better transition chances compared to their Hauptschule peers who graduated with lower credentials. There is no evidence that students who earned an intermediate certificate enter vocational training positions of differing socioeconomic status or prestige depending on type of school attended.

In my third paper, using school-fixed effects regression models, I investigate socioeconomic status gaps in students’ cognitive achievement in grade nine within different school types in Germany. I also explore the association between socioeconomic background and attainment of the intermediate secondary certificate and transition to upper secondary education in multi-track schools. My results provide suggestive evidence that socioeconomic status gaps in cognitive achievement exist within all school types. I also find that more privileged students are significantly more likely to earn an intermediate certificate or transition into upper secondary education. The decomposition of primary and secondary effects reveals that secondary effects are stronger at this transition in the German school system

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Economics and Education
Thesis Advisors
Scott-Clayton, Judith E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 22, 2021