The role of parental wealth in children's educational pathways in Germany

Dräger, Jascha (2022) The role of parental wealth in children's educational pathways in Germany. European Sociological Review, 38 (1). 18–36. ISSN 1468-2672 (

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In this article, I evaluate whether educational attainment in Germany is stratified by parental wealth and at which transitions stratification emerges. I propose a four-stage model to capture the emergence of stratification in the German education system, which is characterized by early between-school tracking: (i) transition to the tracked secondary school, (ii) attended track in the last year of mandatory schooling, (iii) highest school-leaving certificate, and (iv) transition to vocational or tertiary education. Results suggest that stratification by parental wealth emerges at all four stages, and, therefore, accumulates over the stages. Children living in wealthy households are 20 per cent more likely to attend the highest track in fifth grade and to obtain the highest school-leaving certificate and are 40 per cent more likely to enroll in tertiary education compared to children at the bottom of the wealth distribution. Furthermore, parental wealth seems to be particularly effective in preventing negative outcomes like leaving school without a certificate or not finding a fully qualifying vocational training. Among those who do not obtain the formal requirements to enroll in tertiary education, those with wealthy parents are more likely to start dual vocational training.