On Tuesday, October 14th, Dr Katarzyna Kopycka (Institut für Soziologie, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg) presented a paper titled ‘Testing for compositional effects. Does educational expansion lead to greater social mobility? A comparative study of Germany and Poland.’


One of the ways to legitimize social inequality is in terms of equality of opportunity and, hence, social mobility. While societies vary in the level of fluidity there is still no concise picture of the mechanisms resulting in high or low fluidity along the life course. Research up to date concentrates mainly on educational attainment as the major driver of social mobility. The proposed research project takes a broader perspective as it would like to see social mobility as a process occurring throughout the individual life course. It can be expected for the intragenerational mobility potential to be higher at various biographical transitions, like entering the labour market, family formation and going into retirement. The project aims, therefore, at comparing institutionally defined transition structures of developed countries at different biographical transitions in order to identify and describe different mobility regimes found among them. As a starter and a proof of concept an analysis of the school to work transition will be undertaken (see title). There is a recent trend towards tertiarisation of education, changing the structure of educational opportunities. Many believe it to lead to greater social fluidity as labour markets for high qualified are expected to be more meritocratic. According to the screening theory of a labour market, however, it could be expected for educational credentials to lose their signaling power as higher education gets less selective, strengthening again the direct effects of social origin. If there is a time lag between these two processes then we would observe interesting cohort differences of the tertiarisation effect on fluidity. In a forthcoming project this hypothesis shall be tested by comparing labour market entry cohorts in Germany and in Poland, as both countries display a very different tertiarisation dynamic.