Strength, Sources, and Temporal Development of Primary Effects of Families´ Social Status on Secondary School Choice
We analyze the relative importance of primary and secondary effects of both parents’ educational and occupational status on whether an upper or a less ambitious secondary school track is chosen after primary school in Germany. We compare standardized test scores, parents’ achievement beliefs, and teachers’ marks as conceptually different indicators for children’s academic competencies with respect to how completely they capture the strength and temporal development of primary effects. We found all measures, but in particular the teachers’ evaluations, to be strongly affected by the children’s social origin. Furthermore, teachers’ marks had the strongest effect on educational decisions, explained status differences in this respect to the largest extent, and proved to be the best single indicator for primary effects. However, each of the other measures and the children’s competency development in the past exert significant additional effects on the educational decision. The failure to take the full set of competency measures into account leads to a substantial underestimation of primary effects. Taking the cumulative effect of all competency indicators into account, we found 50 percent of the initially significant net-effects of the mothers’ education and 70 percent of the effects of their social class to be attributable to primary effects.
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